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[G.R. No. 113549.

July 5, 1996]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, (Represented by the DIRECTOR OF LANDS), petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and
HEIRS OF LUIS RIBAYA, namely, ANDREA RIBAYA BUENVIAJE, LUIS RIBAYA, ANTONIA RIBAYACONDE, and JOHN DOE
REBAYA, all represented by ANDREA RIBAYA-BUENVIAJE as Administratrix of the Estate of Luis Ribaya, respondents.

DECISION

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

Petitioner seeks the reversal of the Resolution[1] of 24 January 1994 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
17351, which set aside its earlier decision[2] of 9 January 1991. The latter affirmed the decision[3] of 11 November
1987 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 7, Legazpi City, in Civil Case No. 6198 which declared null and void an
original certificate of title issued pursuant to a decree and a decision in a land registration case decided on 18
September 1925.

After the private respondents filed their Comment and the petitioner their Reply, we gave due course to the petition
and required the parties to submit their respective memoranda.

The Court of Appeals' reversal was primarily due to its disagreement with the trial court's findings of fact. Hence,
such removes this case from the general rule that factual findings of the Court of Appeals bind us in a petition for
review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.[4] We are thus compelled to review the factual antecedents.

From the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals and the pleadings of the parties, the following were
established:

On the basis of the private respondents' exhibits,[5] on 9, 10, 12-16, 23, 24, 26, and 27 July 1920, a parcel of land
located in the barrio of Magragondong, Municipality of Ligao, Province of Albay, was surveyed for the spouses Luis
Ribaya and Agustina Revatoris (hereinafter the spouses Ribaya) by Telesforo Untalan, a Bureau of Lands surveyor.
The parcel of land was found to comprise an area of 25,542,603 square meters. The survey plan was denominated as
Plan II-13961 and allegedly approved by the Acting Director of Lands on 3 January 1922. However, as noted by the
Court of Appeals in its 9 January 1991 decision,[6] these exhibits do not at all show the surveyor's signature.
Moreover, as per Land Classification Map No. 871 of the Bureau of Forestry, the above parcel of land was considered
part of the public forest and released for disposition only on 31 December 1930.[7]

In 1925, the spouses Ribaya applied for registration and confirmation of title of the lot covered by Plan II-13961
before the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Albay. The case was docketed as LRC Case No. 52, G.L.R.O. Record No.
26050. Notice of the application, and hearing thereof were published in the 17 March 1925 issue of the Official
Gazette,[8] and in its decision of 18 September 1925,[9] the CFI granted the said application.

Sometime later, or on 18-21 November and 23-30 November 1925, a resurvey of the parcel of land covered by Plan
II-13961 was conducted at the instance of the spouses Ribaya. This gave rise to Plan II13961-Amd., which embraced,
inter alia, four different parcels of land with an aggregate area of only 10,975,022 square meters, instead of the
original 25,542,603 square meters. Plan II-13961-Amd. appeared to have been approved by the Director of Lands on
26 February 1926.[10] The application was not amended to reflect the resurvey and the amended plan was not
published.

On 31 July 1926, the corresponding decree of registration was issued,[11] while on 19 August 1926, Original
Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 3947 covering the four lots embraced by Plan II-13961-Amd. was issued in the names of
the spouses Ribaya.[12]

On 11 September 1958, OCT No. 3947 was administratively reconstituted from the owner's duplicate copy thereof
and the reconstituted title was denominated as OCT No. PO-10848 (3947).[13]

In 1964, the heirs of Luis Ribaya (herein private respondents) received compensation from the Foreign Claims
Settlement Commission of the United States for damages sustained by the land during the war.[14]
In 1968, pursuant to a deed of partition executed by the private respondents herein, the land covered by OCT No.
RO-10848 (3947) was subdivided per Subdivision Plan LRC Psd-96075, approved on 16 December 1968.[15] Then,
OCT No. RO-10848 (3947) was cancelled and separate Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) were issued to the private
respondents.[16]

In a letter dated 6 January 1977, sixty-two (62) farmers occupying the land[17] and claiming ownership thereof,
requested the Director of Lands to institute an action to annul OCT No. RO-10848 (3947).[18] Finding merit in the
request, herein petitioner filed a verified complaint, dated 17 August 1978, with the CFI (now Regional Trial Court) of
Albay, Branch V, for the declaration of nullity of OCT No. 3947, OCT No. RO-10848 (3947), and all subsequent titles
emanating from the original title, viz., TCT Nos. T-31333 to T-31358, inclusive. The case was docketed as Civil Case
No. 6198.

The petitioner claimed therein that OCT No. 3947 was obtained through fraud and that the land registration court
did not acquire jurisdiction over the land for lack of republication of the amended plan, neither did the spouses-
applicants comply with Section 45(b) of Act No. 2874.[19] The petitioner further alleged that at the time the petition
for registration was filed, the land covered therein was forest land, and therefore, inalienable.

On 27 October 1979, the aforementioned 62 farmers filed a complaint-in-intervention and prayed that the land
revert to the petitioner and their titles over the portions respectively occupied by them confirmed.

In its decision of 11 November 1987[20] the Regional Trial Court (RTC) held for the petitioner as follows:

WHEREFORE, decision is hereby rendered as follows:

1. Declaring Original Certificate of Title No. 3947 and administratively reconstituted Original Certificate of Title No.
RO-10848 (3947) as null and void ab initio and without force and effect;

2. Declaring separate Transfer Certificates of Title, to wit: T-31333, T-31334, T-31335, T-31336, T- 31337, T-31338, T-
31339, T-31340, T-31341, T-31342, T-31343, T-31344, T-31345, T-31346, T-31347, T- 31348, T-31349, T-31350, T-
31351, T-31352, T-31353, T-31354, T-31355, T-31356, T-31357 and T-31358, emanating from OCT No. 3947 and OCT
No. RO-10848 (3947), all issued to the heirs of Luis Ribaya and Agustina Revatoris, as likewise null and void and
without force and effect;

3. Ordering [respondents] Heirs of Luis Ribaya and Agustina Revatoris to surrender their copy of OCT No. RO-10848
(3947) as well as their separate transfer certificates of title to the Register of Deeds of Albay, who (sic) is thereafter
directed or ordered to cancel the same;

4. Ordering the reversion of the land to [petitioner] Republic of the Philippines, as alienable and disposable land of
the public domain.

5. And ordering the dismissal of the counterclaim.

The trial court found that at the time the spouses Ribaya filed their petition for registration, the land was already
classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land; however, the then CFI, as a land registration court, did not
acquire jurisdiction over the said lot due to lack of publication or republication in the Official Gazette of Plan II-
13961-Amd., which was the basis of the decree of registration and OCT No. 3947. Consequently, said OCT No. 3947
and its derivative titles were void.[21] In so finding, it relied on Fewkes vs. Vasquez,[22] where it was held that any
amendment or alteration in the description of the land after its publication and decree of registration was not
permissible unless coupled with republication.

The trial court likewise ruled that there was no evidence that the possession of the spouses Ribaya and their
predecessors-in-interests was open, continuous, and adverse under a bona fide claim of ownership for the required
number of years; moreover, they failed to present any tax declarations. It then concluded that the said Spouses may
have occupied portions of the land at a later time, but not in the concept of bona fide owners, for mere casual
cultivation and raising of cattle on the land did not constitute "possession" as contemplated by law.[23]
The private respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. CV No. 17351), which, in its decision[24] of 9
January 1991, affirmed in toto the appealed decision of the trial court. The appellate court further pointed out
another reason why the registration in favor of the applicants was invalid, thus:

[W]hen [the] spouses [Luis Ribaya and Agustina Revatoris] applied for registration thereof in their names said land
was still part of the public forest. The land was released for public disposition only on December 31, 1930 as shown
by the Land Classification Map No. 871 of the Bureau of Forestry (Exhs K, K-5). Consequently, OCT No. 3947 as
reconstituted by OCT No. RO-10848 is void ab initio.

It is well-settled that lands of the public domain classified as forest or timber lands, are incapable of registration in
the names of private persons and their inclusion in a title nullifies the title (Director of Lands vs. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177
and cases cited therein.)[25]

In refuting the claim of the private respondents that publication of the amended survey plan was unnecessary in
light of the decision of this Court in Benin vs. Tuazon,[26] the Court of Appeals held that the facts in Benin were
different. In Benin, an approved survey plan was submitted before the property was decreed for registration, while
in the present case:

[T]he land was decreed for registration on September 18, 1925, while its survey was performed sometime in
November and December 1925. The amended survey plan (plan II-13961-Amd.) thereof was approved by the
Director of Lands on February 26, 1926. In other words, the survey plan (plan II-13961-Amd.) of the land in the
instant case was approved when the land was already decreed for registration. . . .[27]

There was then, the Court of Appeals concluded, a violation of Sections 23 and 26 of Act No. 496.[28]

The private respondents seasonably moved for a reconsideration of this decision.

In its resolution[29] of 24 January 1994, the Court of Appeals granted the motion for reconsideration and set aside
its decision of 9 January 1991, reversed that of the trial court of 11 November 1987, and dismissed the complaint
and the complaint-in-intervention in Civil Case No. 6198 of Branch 7 of the RTC of Legazpi City. In overturning its
previous decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that OCT No. 3947 "is conclusive upon and against all persons,
including the Government and all its branches (Sec. 38, Act No. 496) as to all matters contained therein (Sec. 47, Act
No. 496). One (1) year after its transcription which is the date of its effectivity (Sec. 42, Act No. 496), said certificate
of title became incontrovertible (Sec. 38, Act No. 496)."[30]

It further applied the presumption of regularity in the grant of the land applied for by the spouses Ribaya, and even
extended said presumption to their compliance with all conditions required by law, in particular, their "open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership
since July 26, 1894." It thus burdened the Republic "to prove otherwise."[31]

It likewise ruled that the failure of the spouses Ribaya to present tax receipts was not fatal, and that although they
actually lived in Oas, Albay, such did not negate the character of their possession for "[p]ossession in the eyes of the
law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on every square meter of ground before he can be said that he is
in possession."[32]

The Court of Appeals also rejected the application of the Fewkes case and applied, instead, the decision in Benin,
where this Court held that republication could be dispensed with in an amendment in the application or in the
survey plan, where such amendment consisted of the exclusion of a portion covered by the original application and
the original survey plan as published. Accordingly, the land registration court retained its jurisdiction.

Finally, the Court of Appeals withdrew its earlier finding that the land in question still formed part of the public
forest at the time of the application for registration. It asserted, instead, that there was insufficient basis to conclude
that a parcel of land only became open to disposition on the basis of the date of approval of the land classification
map, because such approval may have been made later by authority of a prior executive declaration.[33]

Unsatisfied, the petitioner filed the instant petition and asserts that (1) the indefeasibility of title does not lie against
the State in an action for reversion of land; (2) the spouses-applicants failed to prove possession of the land for the
period required by law, and the evidence shows that their possession was not open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious under a bona fide claim of ownership; (3) the amended survey plan was not published, (4) the land
covered by OCT No. 3947 was then part of the forest land, hence, inalienable; and (5) the accuracy of the land survey
was doubtful.[34]

In their Comment, the private respondents allege that the petition merely raises factual matters and argue that OCT
No. 3947 is absolutely incontestable, considering that the land was no longer part of the public forest when it was
decreed in favor of their parents. They further contend, invoking Benin, that the issue of republication is inapplicable
since the publication of the original survey plan was already had in compliance with law. Moreover, possession of
the land by their parents, the spouses-applicants, was duly proven, i.e., donations of portions thereof in favor of the
government and the compensation they received from the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United
States for damages sustained by the land during the war sufficiently proved that they were the legitimate owners of
the land. Finally, the original survey plan could no longer be questioned by the petitioner.[35]

As the Court sees it, only two relevant issues need be resolved, to wit:

1. Whether the Republic of the Philippines is barred by prescription to bring the action for annulment of OCT No.
3947 and all its derivative certificates of title; and

2. Whether the land registration court acquired jurisdiction over the four parcels of land subject of the amended
survey plan (Plan II-13961-Amd.) and covered by the decree issued on 31 July 1926 by the General Land Registration
Office pursuant to the decision of the said court of 18 September 1925.

As to the first issue, we find that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that OCT No. 3947 was, to repeat:

[C]onclusive upon and against all persons, including the Government and all its branches (Sec. 38, Act No. 496) as to
all matters contained therein (Sec. 47, Act No. 496). One (1) year after its transcription which is the date of its
effectivity (Sec. 42, Act No. 496), said certificate of title became incontrovertible (Sec. 38, Act No. 496).[36]

First, the one-year period provided for in Section 38 of Act No. 496 merely refers to a petition for review and is
reckoned from the entry of the decree. In the second place, there are other remedies available to an aggrieved party
after the said one-year period, e.g., reconveyance, covered by Section 65 of Act No. 496 which, inter alia, provides
that "in all cases of registration procured by fraud, the owner may pursue all his legal and equitable remedies against
the parties to such fraud, without prejudice, however, to the rights of any innocent holder for value of a certificate of
title."[37] Likewise, an action for damages is sanctioned in cases where the property has been transferred to an
innocent purchaser for value, which may be filed within four years from discovery of the fraud.[38] Recourse may
also be had against the Assurance Fund.[39]

Finally, prescription never lies against the State for the reversion of property which is part of the public forest or of a
forest reservation which was registered in favor of any party. Then too, public land registered under the Land
Registration Act may be recovered by the State at any time. In Republic vs. Animas,[40] we ruled:

Public land fraudulently included in patents or certificates of title may be recovered or reverted to the state in
accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act. Prescription does not lie against the state in such cases for the
Statute of Limitation does not run against the state. The right of reversion or reconveyance to the state is not barred
by prescription.

We therefore hold that since the land applied for by the spouses Ribaya was part of the public forest and released
only on 31 December 1930,[41] the land registration court acquired no jurisdiction over the land, which was not yet
alienable and disposable. Hence, the State's action to annul the certificates of title issued thereunder and for the
reversion of the land is not barred by prescription.

Anent the second issue, we hold that the land registration court in LRC Case No. 52, G.L.R.O. Record No. 26050 never
acquired jurisdiction over the land covered by either the original plan (Plan II-13961) or the amended plan (Plan II-
13961-Amd.) for lack of sufficient publication of the first and total want of publication of the second.
As found by both the trial court in Civil Case No. 6198 and the Court of Appeals, the notice of the hearing of
application of the spouses Ribaya for the registration of the land covered by the original plan was published in the 17
March 1925 issue of the Official Gazette. In short, there was only one publication thereof. Section 31 of Act No. 496,
the governing law then, required two publications. Hence, the decision of 18 September 1925 of the land
registration court was void for want of the required publications. The requirement of dual publication is one of the
essential bases of the jurisdiction of the registration court;[42] it is a jurisdictional requisite.[43] Land registration is a
proceeding in rem and jurisdiction in rem cannot be acquired unless there be constructive seizure of the Land
through publication and service of notice.[44]

Worse, the decision of 18 September 1925 was entirely based on an alleged original survey plan. The fact remains,
however, that in November of that year that original plan was amended (Plan II-13961-Amd.) and the amended plan
was not published at all. There is no evidence that the court amended its decision to conform to the amended plan,
neither is there a showing that the parties even attempted publication thereof. However, the decree that was
subsequently issued was based on the amended plan insofar as the four lots were concerned.

A decree of registration is required to recite the description of the land.[45] On the basis of the decree, OCT No.
3947 was issued. It follows then that the land registration court may have amended its decision to conform to the
amended plan for the four lots which ultimately found their way into the decree issued by the General Land
Registration Office, and finally, into OCT No. 3947. Whether it did so or not and the General Land Registration Office
merely adjusted the decree to conform to the amended plan, such aims were fatally flawed due to the absence of
publication of the amended plan. As such, the land registration court acquired no jurisdiction over the land
embraced by the amended plan.

The Court of Appeals in its challenged resolution of 24 January 1994 and the private respondents, however, maintain
that the publication of the amended plan was unnecessary under our pronouncements in Benin vs. Tuazon.[46] This
case reiterates our rulings in Philippine Manufacturing Co. vs. Imperial,[47] Juan and Chuongco vs. Ortiz,[48] Bank of
the Philippine Islands vs. Acua,[49] Lichauco vs. Herederos de Corpus,[50] and Director of Lands vs. Benitez,[51] that
only where the original survey plan is amended during the registration proceedings, by the addition of land not
previously included in the original plan, should publication be made in order to confer jurisdiction on the court to
order the registration of the area added after the publication of the original plan. Conversely, if the amendment
does not involve an addition, but on the contrary, a reduction of the original area that was published, no new
publication is required.

Reliance on Benin and its predecessors is misplaced. In the first place, the amendment of the original survey plan for
the land applied for by the spouses Ribaya was made after the land registration court rendered its decision. It
follows then that a re-opening of the case was indispensable; however, no such re- opening appears to have been
done therein. Second, as earlier shown, the land registration court acquired no jurisdiction over the land covered by
the original plan because of insufficient publication in the Official Gazette. Third, it has not been sufficiently shown
that the four parcels of land covered by OCT No. 3947, which are based on the amended plan, are but a small part of
the same and covered by the original survey plan. This conclusion is thoroughly discussed below.

In the 24 January 1994 resolution of the Court of Appeals, it found the original areas covered by Plan 13961 to be
25,542,603 square meters and the four parcels of land embraced in the amended plan, Plan II-13961-Amd., to be in
the aggregate of 10,975,022 square meters. Thus:

In the case at bar, in 1925, the spouses Ribaya sought for a judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title of
the land described as follows:

Parcel of land (Plan II-13961) containing an area of 25,542,603 square meters, with the buildings and improvements
thereon, situated in the Barrio Magragondong, Municipality of Ligao, Province of Albay, P.I. x x x (Italics Supplied).

Said 25,542,603 square meter land was surveyed on July 9, 10, 12-16, 23, 24, 26 and 27, 1920 by Telesforo Untalan, a
surveyor of the Bureau of Lands which survey was approved by the Acting Director of Lands on January 3, 1922, (Exh.
6).

The notice of application and hearing of the land as aforedescribed, was published in the March 17, 1925 issue of the
Official Gazette (Exhs. J and J-1).
The land registration court issued a decision in favor of the spouses Ribaya on September 18, 1925 but for a smaller
parcel of land than the 25,542,503 square meters are applied for. On November 23 and 30, 1925, said smaller parcel
of land was surveyed by Land Surveyor Wenceslao Manuel, and was approved by the Director of Lands on February
26, 1926 as Plan II-13961-Amd. (Exh. H and series).

Plan II-13961-Amd. embraced 4 parcels of land in the aggregate area of 10,975,022 square meters separately
described as follows:

1. A parcel of land (Lot No. 1 Plan II-13961-Amd.), containing an area of 3,318,454 square meters, more or less;

2. A parcel of land (Lot No. 2 Plan II-13961-Amd.), containing an area of 1,575,195 square meters more or less;

3. A parcel of land (Lot No. 3 Plan II-13961-Amd.), containing an area of 4,844,205 square meters, more or less;

4. A parcel of land (Lot No. 4 Plan II-13961-Amd.), containing an area of 1,237,368 square meters, more or less.[52]

This was also its finding in its earlier decision of 9 January 1991.[53]

In their Comment of 30 May 1994, the private respondents do not, for obvious reasons, dispute such finding and so
they not only quoted it therein,[54] they also explicitly assert that:

The undisputed facts are that the original plan of the land applied for which was published in the Official Gazette
contained an area of 25,542,603 square meters. The land actually embraced in the decree of registration contained
only 10,975,022 square meters.[55] (Italics supplied)

In hectares, the 25,542,603 square meters means Two Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty Four Hectares, two ares,
and six hundred and three centares (2,554 has., 2 ares, and 603 centares); and the 10,975,022 square meters means
one thousand and ninety seven hectares, five ares, and twenty-two centares (1,097 has., 5 ares, and 22 centares).

However, the trial court is somewhat confused as to the area of the land covered by Plan II-13961, as well as, that
covered by the amended plan (Plan II-13961-Amd.). Thus:

[A]nd on March 7, 1978 Land Investigator Selecio San Felipe wrote the Director of Lands that the report of the ocular
inspection and investigation conducted on May 14, 15 and 16, 1977 was true and correct, . . . that Plan II 3961-Amd.,
Sheet no. 1, surveyed for Luis Ribaya, with an area of 489.3649 hectares, located at Magragondong, Ligao, Albay,
was surveyed on November 18-21, December 8-9, 1925 by Private Land Surveyor Wenceslao Manuel, and was
approved by the Director of Lands on February 26, 1926 (Exhibits G, G-l and G-2 for plaintiff and Exhibits GG, GG-l
and GG-2 for Intervenors); that Plan II-13961 Amd., Sheet no. 2, surveyed for Luis Ribaya, with an area of 608.1373
hectares, located at Magragondong, Ligao, Albay, was surveyed on November 23-30, 1925 by Private Land Surveyor
Wenceslao Manuel, and was approved by the Director of Lands on February 26, 1926 (Exhibits H, H-l and H-2 for
plaintiff and Exhibits HH, HH-1 and HH-2 for intervenors); . . . that Original Certificate of Title No RO-10848 (3947)
covers 4 parcels of land, to wit: Lot No. 1, Plan II-13961-Amd.), containing an area of 3,318.454 square meters more
or less, Lot No. 2, Plan II-13961-Amd.), containing an area of 1,575.195 square meters more or less, Lot No. 3, Plan II-
13961- Amd.), containing an area of 4,844.005 square meters more or less, and Lot No. 4, Plan II-13961-Amd.),
containing an area of 1,237.368 square meters more or less with a total of 10,975.022 square meters more or less; x
x x that Plan II-13961 of property as surveyed for Luis Ribaya, situated in the barrio of Magragondong, Municipality
of Ligao, province of Albay, containing an area of 25,542.603 square meters, was surveyed on July 9, 10, 12-16, 23,
24, 26 and 27, 1920 in accordance with Section 45 of Act 2874 by Telesforo Untalan, a surveyor of the Bureau of
Lands, and the said plan was approved by the Acting Director of Lands on January 3, 1922 (Exhibits 6 and 6-A). . .
.[56] (Italics supplied)

Note that instead of a comma (,) before the last three digits in the areas of the four lots covered by the amended
plan, as well as the areas embraced in the original plan, the trial court placed a period (.). The change from a comma
to a period is of vital significance. For, translated into hectares, the 25,542.603 square meters would be only Two (2)
hectares, five (5) ares, and five hundred and forty-two (542) centares; and the aggregate of 10,975.022 square
meters for the four lots embraced in Plan II-13961-Amd. would be one (1) hectare and nine hundred seventy-five
(975) centares.

Indeed, the disagreement between the Court of Appeals and the trial court as to the land area of the original survey
plan (Plan II-13961), i.e., whether it was 25,542,603 square meters (twenty-five million five hundred and forty-two
thousand and six hundred three square meters) as found by the former, or 25,542.603 square meters (twenty-five
thousand, five hundred forty-two point six hundred and three square meters) as found by the latter, only shows the
unreliability of the original plan sought to be established through Exhibits 6 and 6-A. The Court of Appeals itself so
found it to be in its decision of 9 January 1991 because these exhibits did not show that the survey plan was signed
by the surveyor. Thus:

Although the trial court said so (decision, p. 4) its basis, which is (original) Plan II-13961 (Exhs. 6, 6-A), did not
indubitably establish the same. In the first place, said original plan (Plan II-13961) does not bear the signature of the
surveyor thereof, thereby casting doubt on its genuineness and due execution. x x x[57] (Italics supplied)

Such doubt gains strength if we consider that if indeed the area embraced therein was that found by the Court of
Appeals, i.e., 25,542,603 square meters with a comma before the last three digits it would have been physically
impossible to finish the survey thereof in only eleven days (9, 10, 12-16, 23, 24, 26, and 27 July 1920). Plainly, the
present-day sophisticated survey instruments were not then available. Furthermore, the trial court indicated in its
findings of fact that in addition to the four lots covered by OCT No. 3947, there were other large tracts covered by
the amended survey plan (Plan II-13961-Amd.), viz.:

[T]hat Plan II-13961-Amd., Sheet no. 1, surveyed for Luis Ribaya, with an area of 489.3649 hectares, located at
Magragondong, Ligao, Albay, . . . (Exhibits G, G-1 and G-2 for plaintiff and Exhibits GG, GG-1 and GG-2 for
Intervenors); that Plan II-13961 Amd., Sheet no. 2, surveyed for Luis Ribaya, with an area of 608.1373 hectares,
located at Magragondong, Ligao, Albay,... (Exhibits H, H-1 and H-2 for plaintiff and Exhibits HH, HH-1 and HH-2 for
intervenors);[58] (Italics supplied)

The disagreement between the trial court and the Court of Appeals cannot be definitely resolved because no reliable
copy of the original Plan II-13961 was presented. Exhibits "6 and 6-A are a machine copy of the blueprint of the said
Plan, which is not the best evidence under Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. They are, at most, secondary
evidence, which are inadmissible for failure of the offer or to prove any of the exception provided therein and to
established the conditions for their admissibility. Even if they are admitted, they have no probative value.

Clearly then, there is absence of factual basis to conclude that the four parcels of land included in OCT No. 3947 are
but a part of the land covered by the original plan (Plan II-13961).

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The challenged resolution of 24 January 1994 of the respondent Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 17351 is SET ASIDE, while its decision therein of 9 January 1991 affirming in toto that of
Branch 7 of the Regional Trial Court of Legaspi City of 11 November 1987 in Civil Case No. 6198 is REINSTATED and
AFFIRMED.

Costs against the private respondents.

SO ORDERED.
ELAND PHILIPPINES, INC.,

Petitioner,

-versus-

AZUCENA GARCIA, ELINO FAJARDO, and HEIR OF TIBURCIO MALABANAN named TERESA MALABANAN,

Respondents.

G.R. No. 173289

Present:

CARPIO,* J.,

CORONA, J., Chairperson,

NACHURA,

PERALTA, and

MENDOZA, JJ.

Promulgated:

February 17, 2010

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to reverse and set aside the
decision[1] dated February 28, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 67417, which dismissed the
appeal of petitioner Eland Philippines, Inc. and affirmed the Resolutions dated November 3, 1999 and June 28, 2006
of Branch 18, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tagaytay City.

The facts of the case, as shown in the records, are the following:

Respondents Azucena Garcia, Elino Fajardo, and Teresa Malabanan, the heir of Tiburcio Malabanan, filed a
Complaint[2] dated March 2, 1998 for Quieting of Title with Writ of Preliminary Injunction with the RTC, Branch XVIII,
Tagaytay City against petitioner Eland Philippines, Inc. Respondents claimed that they are the owners, in fee simple
title, of a parcel of land identified as Lot 9250 Cad-355, Tagaytay Cadastre, Plan Ap-04-008367, situated in Barangay
Iruhin, Tagaytay City, containing an area of Two Hundred Forty-Four Thousand One Hundred Twelve (244,112)
square meters, by occupation and possession under the provisions of Sec. 48 (b)[3] of the Public Land Law or
Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended.

For having been in continuous, public, and adverse possession as owners of the said lot for at least thirty years,
respondents stated that they were not aware of any person or entity who had a legal or equitable interest or claim
on the same lot until the time they were requesting that the lot be declared for tax purposes. They found out that
the lot was the subject of a land registration proceeding that had already been decided by the same court[4] where
their complaint was filed. They also found out that Decree No. N-217313, LRC Record No. N-62686, was already
issued on August 20, 1997 to the petitioner pursuant to the Decision dated June 7, 1994 of the same court. They
averred that they were not notified of the said land registration case; thus, they claimed the presence of
misrepresentation amounting to actual or extrinsic fraud. Thus, they argued that they were also entitled to a writ of
preliminary injunction in order to restrain or enjoin petitioner, its privies, agents, representatives, and all other
persons acting on its behalf, to refrain from committing acts of dispossession on the subject lot.

Summons, together with a copy of the complaint, were served on the petitioner on April 7, 1998. On April 29, 1998,
petitioner filed an Entry of Appearance with Motion for Extension of Time,[5] which the trial court granted[6] for a
period of ten (10) days within which to file a responsive pleading. Petitioner filed a Second Motion for Extension of
Time to File Answer[7] dated April 29, 1998, which the trial court likewise granted.[8]

Thereafter, petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss[9] dated May 9, 1998, stating that the pleading asserting the claim of
respondents stated no cause of action, and that the latter were not entitled to the issuance of a writ of preliminary
injunction, setting the same for hearing on May 21, 1998. On the date of the hearing, the trial court issued an
Order,[10] which granted the respondents ten (10) days from that day to file a comment, and set the date of the
hearing on July 23, 1998. Respondents filed a Motion to Admit Comment/Opposition to Defendant Eland,[11]
together with the corresponding Comment/Opposition[12] dated June 8, 1998.
On the scheduled hearing of September 23, 1998, the trial court issued an Order,[13] considering the Motion to
Dismiss submitted for resolution due to the non-appearance of the parties and their respective counsels. The said
motion was eventually denied by the trial court in an Order[14] dated September 25, 1998, ruling that the
allegations in the complaint established a cause of action and enjoined petitioner Eland to file its answer to the
complaint within ten (10) days from receipt of the same. Petitioner then filed two Motions for Extension to File an
Answer.[15]

Petitioner, on November 9, 1998, filed a Motion for Reconsideration[16] of the trial court's Order dated September
25, 1998, denying the former's Motion to Dismiss. Again, petitioner filed a Motion for Final Extension of Time to File
Answer[17] dated November 6, 1998. Respondents filed their Comment/Opposition to Motion for Reconsideration
dated November 24, 1998. Subsequently, the trial court denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration in an
Order[18] dated January 11, 1999.

Meanwhile, respondents filed a Motion to Declare Defendant Eland in Default[19] dated November 17, 1998. On
December 4, 1998 Petitioner Eland filed its Comment (on Plaintiff's Motion to Declare Defendant Eland in
Default)[20] dated December 2, 1998, while respondents filed a Reply to Comment (on Plaintiff's Motion to Declare
Defendant Eland in Default)[21] dated December 29, 1998. Thereafter, the trial court issued an Order[22] dated
January 11, 1999 declaring the petitioner in default and allowed the respondents to present evidence ex parte.
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration (of the Order dated 11 January 1999)[23] dated February 5, 1999 on
the trial court's denial of its motion to dismiss and in declaring it in default. The trial court in an Order[24] dated
March 18, 1999, denied the former and granted the latter. In the same Order, the trial court admitted petitioner's
Answer Ad Cautelam.

Earlier, petitioner filed its Answer Ad Cautelam (With Compulsory Counterclaim)[25] dated November 12, 1998.
Respondents countered by filing a Motion to Expunge Eland's Answer from the Records[26] dated December 2,
1998. Petitioner filed its Opposition (to Plaintiff's Motion to Expunge Eland's Answer from the Records)[27] dated
December 21, 1998, as well as a Comment (on Plaintiff's Motion to Expunge Eland's Answer from the Records)[28]
dated January 26, 1999.

Consequently, respondents filed a Motion to Set Presentation of Evidence Ex Parte[29] dated January 18, 1999,
which was granted in an Order[30] dated January 22, 1999.

On January 28, 1999, respondents presented their evidence before the Clerk of Court of the trial court which ended
on February 3, 1999; and, on February 10, 1999, respondents filed their Formal Offer of Evidence.[31] However,
petitioner filed an Urgent Motion to Suspend Plaintiff's Ex Parte Presentation of Evidence[32] dated February 8,
1999. In that regard, the trial court issued an Order[33] dated February 11, 1999 directing the Clerk of Court to
suspend the proceedings.

On May 14, 1999, respondents filed a Motion for Clarification[34] as to whether or not the evidence presented ex
parte was nullified by the admission of petitioner's Answer Ad Cautelam. Petitioner filed its Comment[35] dated May
13, 1999 on the said motion for clarification.
A pre-trial conference was scheduled on May 27, 1999, wherein the parties submitted their pre-trial briefs.[36]
However, petitioner filed a Motion to Suspend Proceedings[37] dated May 24, 1999 on the ground that the same
petitioner had filed a petition for certiorari with the CA, asking for the nullification of the Order dated March 18,
1999 of the trial court and for the affirmation of its earlier Order denying petitioner's Motion to Dismiss. The petition
for certiorari was subsequently denied; and a copy of the Resolution[38] dated June 14, 1999 was received by the
trial court. Hence, in an Order[39] dated July 7, 1999, the trial court ruled that the reception of evidence already
presented by the respondents before the Clerk of Court remained as part of the records of the case, and that the
petitioner had the right to cross-examine the witness and to comment on the documentary exhibits already
presented. Consequently, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration[40] dated July 19, 1999, but it was denied by
the trial court in an Omnibus Order[41] dated September 14, 1999.

Eventually, respondents filed a Motion for Summary Judgment[42] dated August 5, 1999, while petitioner filed its
Opposition[43] to the Motion dated August 31, 1999. In its Resolution[44] dated November 3, 1999, the trial court
found favor on the respondents. The dispositive portion of the Resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion for summary judgment is hereby GRANTED and it is hereby adjudged
that:

1. Plaintiffs are the absolute owners and rightful possessors of Lot 9250, CAD-355, Tagaytay Cadastre, subject to the
rights of occupancy of the farm workers on the one-third area thereof;

2. The Judgment dated June 7, 1994 in Land Registration Case No. TG-423 is set aside and the Decree No. N-217313,
LRC Record No. N-62686 dated August 20, 1997 is null and void;

3. The Original Transfer Certificate of Title is ordered to be canceled, as well as tax declaration covering Lot 9250,
Cad-355.

SO ORDERED.

Petitioner appealed the Resolution of the trial court with the CA, which dismissed it in a Decision dated February 28,
2006, which reads:
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Resolution dated November 3, 1999, of the
RTC, Branch 18, Tagaytay City, in Civil Case No. TG-1784, is AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to cost.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, the present petition.

The grounds relied upon by the petitioner are the following:

5.1 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT RULED THAT RESPONDENTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
DATED AUGUST 05, 1999 DID NOT VIOLATE THE TEN (10)-DAY NOTICE RULE UNDER SECTION 3, RULE 35 OF THE
1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.

5.2 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT RULED THAT A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS PROPER IN
AN ACTION FOR QUIETING OF TITLE.

5.3 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT RULED THAT THERE ARE NO GENUINE FACTUAL AND TRIABLE
ISSUES IN CIVIL CASE NO. TG-1784.

5.4 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT UPHELD THE RESOLUTION DATED NOVEMBER 03, 1999 OF THE
COURT A QUO, BASED ON TESTIMONIES OF RESPONDENTS' WITNESSES TAKEN WITHOUT GRANTING HEREIN
PETITIONER THE RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINE AND UPON DOCUMENTARY EXHIBITS PRESENTED BUT NOT ADMITTED
AS EVIDENCE.

5.5 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT UPHELD THE RESOLUTION DATED NOVEMBER 03, 1999 OF THE
COURT A QUO BASED ON FALSIFIED EVIDENCE.

5.6 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT FAILED TO RULE THAT THE COURT A QUO PATENTLY DEPRIVED
PETITIONER OF ITS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS IN RENDERING ITS SUMMARY JUDGMENT.
5.7 THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED IN A MANNER NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT WHEN IT HELD THAT THE COURT A QUO HAS JURISDICTION TO CANCEL
PETITIONER'S ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE (OCT) NO. 0-660 IN AN ACTION TO QUIET TITLE.

According to the petitioner, a motion for summary judgment must be served at least ten (10) days before the date
set for hearing thereof, and that a hearing must be held to hear the parties on the propriety of a summary judgment,
per Sec. 3 of Rule 35 of the Revised Rules of Court, which was not observed because the petitioner received a copy
of the respondents' motion for summary judgment only on August 20, 1999, or the very same day that the motion
was set for hearing. Petitioner further claims that the trial court never conducted any hearing on the motion for
summary judgment.

Petitioner also argued that a summary judgment is only available to a claimant seeking to recover upon a claim,
counterclaim or cross-claim or to obtain a declaratory relief, and does not include cases for quieting of title.
Furthermore, petitioner also averred that a summary judgment has no place in a case where genuine factual and
triable issues exist, like in the present case. It added that the genuine and triable issues were all raised in its Answer
Ad Cautelam.

Another ground relied upon by petitioner is its failure to cross-examine the witnesses for the respondents without
fault on its part. It also stated that the trial court did not issue any order admitting in evidence the documentary
exhibits presented by the respondents. Hence, according to the petitioner, the trial court gravely erred in relying
upon the testimonies of the witnesses for the respondents, without having the latter cross-examined; and upon the
documentary exhibits presented but not admitted as evidence.

Petitioner further claimed that the trial court based its Resolution dated November 3, 1999 on falsified evidence.

Lastly, petitioner raised the issue that by rendering summary judgment, the trial court deprived the former of its
right to due process.

Respondents, in their Comment[45] dated October 16, 2006, countered the first issue raised by the petitioner,
stating that their filing of the motion for summary judgment fourteen (14) days before the requested hearing of the
same motion was in compliance with Sec. 3, Rule 35 of the Rules of Court.

As to the second and third issues, respondents argued that petitioner had a constricted perception of the coverage
of the Rules of Summary Judgment, and that the latter's citation of cases decided by this Court showed the diverse
causes of action that could be the subject matters of summary judgment. Respondents also posited that petitioner's
statements in its Answer Ad Cautelam, although denominated as Specific Denial, were really general denials that did
not comply with the provisions of Section 10, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court.
Anent the fourth and fifth issues, respondents claimed that despite the opportunity, or the right allowed in the
Order dated July 17, 1999 of the trial court, for the petitioner to cross-examine respondents' witnesses and to
comment on the documentary evidence presented ex parte after the default order against the same petitioner, the
latter evasively moved to set aside respondents' evidence in order to suspend further proceedings that were
intended to abort the pre-trial conference. They added that petitioner neglected to avail itself of, or to comply with,
the prescription of the rules found in Rule 35 of the Rules of Court by opting not to avail itself of the hearing of its
opposition to the summary judgment after receiving the Order dated August 20, 1999; by failing to serve opposing
affidavit, deposition or admission in the records; and by not objecting to the decretal portion of the said Order dated
August 20, 1999, which stated that the motion for summary judgment has been submitted for resolution without
further argument. With regard to the contention of the petitioner that the trial court wrongly appreciated falsified
evidence, respondents asserted that petitioner's counsel failed to study carefully the records of the proceedings for
the presentation of the evidence ex parte to be able to know that it was not only a single-day proceeding, and that
more than one witness had been presented. They further averred that the trial court did not only rely on the
photographs of the houses of the occupants of the property in question.

Finally, as to the sixth and seventh issues, respondents asseverated that their complaint alleged joint causes of
action for quieting of title under Art. 476 of the New Civil Code and for the review of the decree of registration
pursuant to Sec. 32 of the Property Registration Decree or P.D. No. 1529, because they are complimentary with each
other.

The petition is impressed with merit.

The basic contention that must be resolved by this Court is the propriety of the summary judgment in this particular
case of quieting of title.

Rule 35 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

SEC. 1. Summary judgment for claimant. - A party seeking to recover upon a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim or to
obtain a declaratory relief may, at any time after the pleading in answer thereto has been served, move with
supporting affidavits for a summary judgment in his favor upon all or any part thereof

SEC. 3. Motion and proceedings thereon. - The motion shall be served at least ten (10) days before the time specified
for the hearing. The adverse party prior to the day of hearing may serve opposing affidavits. After the hearing, the
judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleading, depositions, and admissions on file together with the
affidavits, show that, except as to the amount of damages, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.[46]

In the present case, it was the respondents who moved for a summary judgment.
Petitioner contended that the ten-day notice rule was violated, because the copy of the motion for summary
judgment was served only on August 20, 1999 or on the same day it was set for hearing. It also added that even if
the petitioner received a copy of the motion only on August 20, 1999, there was no hearing conducted on that date
because the trial court issued an order giving petitioner 10 days within which to file its comment or opposition.

The above specific contention, however, is misguided. The CA was correct in its observation that there was
substantial compliance with due process. The CA ruled, as the records show, that the ten-day notice rule was
substantially complied with because when the respondents filed the motion for summary judgment on August 9,
1999, they furnished petitioner with a copy thereof on the same day as shown in the registry receipt and that the
motion was set for hearing on August 20, 1999, or 10 days from the date of the filing thereof.

Due process, a constitutional precept, does not, therefore, always and in all situations a trial-type proceeding. The
essence of due process is found in the reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit one's evidence in support of
his defense. What the law prohibits is not merely the absence of previous notice, but the absence thereof and the
lack of opportunity to be heard.[47]

Petitioner further argues that summary judgment is not proper in an action for quieting of title. This particular
argument, however, is misplaced. This Court has already ruled that any action can be the subject of a summary
judgment with the sole exception of actions for annulment of marriage or declaration of its nullity or for legal
separation.[48]

Proceeding to the main issue, this Court finds that the grant of summary judgment was not proper. A summary
judgment is permitted only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and a moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. A summary judgment is proper if, while the pleadings on their face appear to raise
issues, the affidavits, depositions, and admissions presented by the moving party show that such issues are not
genuine.[49]

It must be remembered that the non-existence of a genuine issue is the determining factor in granting a motion for
summary judgment, and the movant has the burden of proving such nonexistence. The trial court found no genuine
issue as to any material fact that would necessitate conducting a full-blown trial. However, a careful study of the
case shows otherwise.

In their motion for summary judgment, the respondents failed to clearly demonstrate the absence of any genuine
issue of fact. They merely reiterated their averments in the complaint for quieting of title and opposed some issues
raised by the petitioner in its Answer Ad Cautelam, to wit:

Nonetheless, going by the records of the admitted and uncontroverted facts and facts established there is no more
litigious or genuine issue of basic fact to be the subject of further trial on the merits.
The first defense as to the identity of the subject property, the issue has already become nil because of not only the
lack of seriousness in the allegations but also because the identity of the subject parcel of land Lot 9250 was proven
by the approved plan Ap-04-008367 that was already presented and offered in evidence as Exhibit B for the
plaintiffs.

The second defense that plaintiffs' claim of the property is barred by prior judgment rule is unavailing considering
that the vital documentary evidence they presented in Land Registration Case No. TG-423 before this Honorable
Court the markings and descriptions of such documents are stated in the Judgment quoted as follows:

(1) Tax Declaration No. 015224-A (Exhibit Q; x x x.

(2) Tax Declaration No. 05019-B (Exhibit R; x x x.

(3) Tax Declaration No. 01926-B (Exhibit S; x x x.

(4) Tax Declaration No. GR-007-0007 (Exhibit T x x x.

are the very documentary evidence adopted and relied upon by the plaintiffs in seeking the review and nullity of the
Decree No. 217313 issued on August 20, 1997 under LRC Record No. N-62686 pursuant to the Judgment dated June
7, 1994 rendered by this Honorable Court penned by the acting presiding Judge Eleuterio F. Guerrero in said Land
Registration Case No. TG-423.

On the other hand, as to the gravamen of the claims in the complaint, the plaintiffs have presented clear and
convincing evidence as the well-nigh or almost incontrovertible evidence of a registerable title to the subject land in
the proceedings conducted on the reception of evidence ex-parte for the plaintiffs establishing in detail the
specifications of continuous, open, exclusive possession as aspects of acquisitive prescription as confirmed in the
affidavit herein attached as Annex A;

In ruling that there was indeed no genuine issue involved, the trial court merely stated that:

This Court, going by the records, observed keenly that plaintiffs cause of action for quieting of title on the disputed
parcel of land is based on the alleged fraud in the substitution of their landholdings of Lot 9250, Cad 355, Tagaytay
Cadastre containing only an area of 244,112 square meters with Lot 9121, Cad 335, Tagaytay Cadastre, containing
only an area of 19,356 square meters. While defendant Eland in its answer practically and mainly interposed the
defenses of: (a) the parcel of land being claimed by the plaintiffs is not the parcel of land subject matter of Land
Registration Case No. TG-423; (b) the claim of the plaintiffs is barred by prior judgment of this Court in said Land
Registration Case; and (c) plaintiffs' complaint is barred by the Statute of Limitation since Original Certificate of Title
No. 0-660 has become incontrovertible.

Cross-reference of the above-cited Land Registration Case No. TG-423 that was decided previously by this Court with
the case at bench was imperatively made by this Court. Being minded that the Court has and can take judicial notice
of the said land registration case, this Court observed that there is no genuine issue of fact to be tried on the merits.
Firstly, because the supposed identity crisis of the controverted parcel of land covered by the Land Registration Case
No. TG-423 with the subject parcel of land is established by Plan Ap-04-006275 (Exhibit N) LRC Case No. 423 and by
Plan A04 008367 (Exhibit B of the plaintiffs) and the Technical Description of Lot 9250, Cad 355 (Exhibit B-1 of the
plaintiffs). Secondly, the prior judgment rule cannot be availed of by defendant Eland since not only intrinsic fraud
but extrinsic fraud were alleged in and established by the records. (Heirs of Manuel Roxas v. Court of Appeals, G. R.
No. 1184436, pro. March 21, 1997). Thirdly, it is incontrovertible that the complaint in this case seeking to review
the judgment and annul the decree was filed on March 5, 1998 or within one (1) year from August 20, 1997 or the
date of issuance of Decree No. 217313, LRC Record No. N-62686, hence, the Original Certificate of Title No. 0-660
issued to defendant Eland has not attained incontrovertibility. (Heirs of Manuel Roxas v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
118436, prom. March 21, 1997).

Notwithstanding, the issue of possession is a question of fact by the interaction of the basic pleadings, the
observation of this Court is that the plaintiffs were able to prove by the well-nigh incontrovertible evidence, the
aspects of possession in accordance with Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, as hereinafter
illustrated.

The CA, in affirming the above Resolution of the trial court, propounded thus:

The contention of defendant-appellant is untenable. Summary judgment is not only limited to solving actions
involving money claims. Under Rule 35 of the 1997 Rules of Court, except as to the amount of damages, when there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law,
summary judgment may be allowed. The term genuine issue has been defined as an issue of fact which calls for the
presentation of evidence as distinguished from an issue which is sham, fictitious, contrived, set up in bad faith and
patently unsubstantial so as not to constitute a genuine issue for trial.

Thus, under the aforecited rule, summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of fact, which
call for the presentation of evidence in a full-blown trial. Thus, even if on their face the pleadings appear to raise
issues, but when the affidavits, depositions and admissions show that such issues are not genuine, then summary
judgment as prescribed by the rules must ensue as a matter of law.

It should be stressed that the court a quo which rendered the assailed resolution in Civil Case No. TG-1784 was the
very court that decided the LRC Case No. TG-423. Such being the case, the court a quo was privy to all relevant facts
and rulings pertaining to LRC Case No. TG-423 which it considered and applied to this case. Thus, where all the facts
are within the judicial knowledge of the court, summary judgment may be granted as a matter of right.

On the contrary, in petitioner's Answer Ad Cautelam, genuine, factual and triable issues were raised, aside from
specifically denying all the allegations in the complaint, thus:
2. SPECIFIC DENIALS

2.1 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 and 3 of the Complaint insofar
as it alleges the personal circumstances of the plaintiff and one A. F. Development Corporation for lack of knowledge
or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth thereof.

2.2 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraphs 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Complaint
for lack of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of said allegations. And if the property
referred to in said paragraphs is that parcel of land which was the subject matter of Land Registration Case No. TG-
423 which was previously decided by this Honorable Court with finality, said allegations are likewise specifically
denied for the obvious reason that the said property had already been adjudged with finality by no less than this
Honorable Court as absolutely owned by herein answering defendant as will be further discussed hereunder.

2.3 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraph 8 of the Complaint insofar as it
alleged that (u)pon exercise of further circumspection, counsel for the plaintiffs once followed-up in writing the 1994
request of the plaintiffs to have the subject parcel of land be declared for taxation purposes and insofar as it is made
to appear that parcel of land being claimed by the plaintiffs is the same parcel of land subject matter of Land
Registration Case No. TG-423 for lack of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth thereof
and for the reason that the names of the herein plaintiffs were never mentioned during the entire proceedings in
said land registration case and by reason of the Affirmative Allegations contained hereunder.

2.4 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraphs 9, 10, 10 (a), 10 (b), 10 (c), 10
(d), 10 (e), 10 (f), 10 (g), 10 (h), and 11 for the reason that there is no showing that the parcel of land being claimed
by the plaintiff is the same parcel of land which was the subject matter of Land Registration Case No. TG- 423, and in
the remote possibility that the parcel of land being claimed by the plaintiffs is the same as that parcel of land subject
of Land Registration Case No. TG-423, the allegations contained in said paragraphs are still specifically denied for the
reason that no less than the Honorable Court had decided with finality that the parcel of land is absolutely owned by
herein defendant to the exclusion of all other persons as attested to by the subsequent issuance of an Original
Certificate of Title in favor of answering defendant and for reasons stated in the Affirmative Allegations.

2.5 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraph 12 of the Complaint for the
obvious reason that it was the plaintiffs who appear to have been sleeping on their rights considering that up to the
present they still do not have any certificate of title covering the parcel of land they are claiming in the instant case,
while on the part of herein defendant, no less than the Honorable Court had adjudged with finality that the parcel of
land subject matter of Land Registration Case No. TG-423 is absolutely owned by herein defendant.

2.6 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraph 13 of the complaint for the
reason that defendant has never ladgrabbed any parcel of land belonging to others, much less from the plaintiffs,
and further, answering defendant specifically denies the allegations therein that plaintiffs engaged the services of a
lawyer for a fee for lack of knowledge r information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth thereof.

2.7 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraphs 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the
Complaint for lack of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as the truth thereof.
2.8 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraphs IV (a) to IV (c) for the reason
that, as above-stated, if the parcel of land being claimed by the plaintiffs is the same as that parcel of land subject
matter of Land Registration Case No. TG-423, this Honorable Court had already decided with finality that said parcel
of land is absolutely owned by herein answering defendant and additionally, for those reasons stated in defendant's
Motion to Dismiss.

2.9 Answering defendant specifically denies the allegations contained in paragraph IV (d) of the Complaint for lack of
knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth thereof.

Special and affirmative defenses were also raised in the same Answer Ad Cautelam, to wit:

xxxx

4.1 The pleading asserting the claim of the plaintiff states no cause of action as asserted in the Motion To Dismiss
filed by herein answering defendant and for the reason that there is no evidence whatsoever showing or attesting to
the fact that the parcel of land being claimed by the plaintiffs in the Complaint is the same parcel of land which was
the subject matter of Land Registration Case No. TG-423.

4.2 The complaint was barred by the prior judgment rendered by this Honorable in Land Registration Case No. TG-
423.

4.3 The complaint is barred by the Statute of Limitation in that OCT No. 0-660 had become incontrovertible by virtue
of the Torrens System of Registration; and to allow plaintiffs to question the validity of answering defendant's title
through the instant complaint would be a collateral of OCT No. 0-660 which is not permissible under the law.

4.4 Plaintiffs are barred by their own acts and/or omission from filing the present complaint under the principles of
estoppel and laches.

4.5 Plaintiffs does not to the Court with clean hands as they appear to be well aware of the proceedings in said Land
Registration Case No. TG- 423 and inspite of such knowledge, plaintiffs never bothered to present their alleged
claims in the proceedings.

4.6 Answering defendant has always acted with justice, given everyone his due, and observed honesty and good
faith in his dealings.
Clearly, the facts pleaded by the respondents in their motion for summary judgment have been duly disputed and
contested by petitioner, raising genuine issues that must be resolved only after a full-blown trial. When the facts as
pleaded by the parties are disputed or contested, proceedings for summary judgment cannot take the place of
trial.[50] In the present case, the petitioner was able to point out the genuine issues. A genuine issue is an issue of
fact that requires the presentation of evidence as distinguished from a sham, fictitious, contrived or false claim.[51]

It is of utmost importance to remember that petitioner is already the registered owner (Original Certificate of Title
[OCT] No. 0-660 issued by the Register of Deeds) of the parcel of land in question, pursuant to a decree of
registration (Decree No. N-217313, LRC Record No. 62686) based on the ruling of the same court that granted the
summary judgment for the quieting of title.

Incidentally, the findings of the trial court contained in the disputed summary judgment were obtained through
judicial notice of the facts and rulings pertaining to that earlier case (LRC Case No. TG-423) wherein the same trial
court ruled in favor of the petitioner. It is, therefore, disorienting that the same trial court reversed its earlier ruling,
which categorically stated that:

x x x There is overwhelming evidence or proof on record that the vendors listed in Exhibit HH, with submarkings, are
the previous owners of the parcel of land mentioned in the same deed of sale and aside form the tax declarations
covering the same property (Exhibits Q to T, inclusive), the uncontroverted testimony of Atty. Ruben Roxas
establishes beyond any shadow of doubt that applicant's (referring to herein defendant-appellant)
sellers/predecessors-in-interest are the grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren of the
spouses Lucio Petate and Maria Pobleta Petate, the former owners of the same property, whose ownership is
further bolstered by tax receipts showing payments of realty taxes (Exhibits U to GG, inclusive, with submarkings).

xxx

On the basis of the foregoing facts and circumstances, and considering that applicant is a domestic corporation not
otherwise disqualified from owning real properties in the Philippines, this Court finds that applicant has satisfied all
the conditions/requirements essential to the grant of its application pursuant to the provisions of the Land
Registration Law, as amended, inspite of the opposition filed by the Heirs of the late Doroteo Miranda. Hence, the
grant of applicant's petition appears to be inevitable.

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves the instant petition for land registration and, thus, places under the
operation of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Law, the land
described in Plan Ap-04-006275 and containing an area of Two Hundred Forty-Two Thousand Seven Hundred Ninety-
Four (242,794) square meters, as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case,
in addition to other proofs adduced in the name of the applicant, ELAND PHILIPPINES, INC., with principal office at
No. 43 E. Rodriguez Ave. (Espaa Extension), Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Once this decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.
SO ORDERED.

By granting the summary judgment, the trial court has in effect annulled its former ruling based on a claim of
possession and ownership of the same land for more than thirty years without the benefit of a full-blown trial. The
fact that the respondents seek to nullify the original certificate of title issued to the petitioner on the claim that the
former were in possession of the same land for a number of years, is already a clear indicium that a genuine issue of
a material fact exists. This, together with the failure of the respondents to show that there were no genuine issues
involved, should have been enough for the trial court to give the motion for summary judgment, filed by
respondents, scant consideration. Trial courts have limited authority to render summary judgments and may do so
only when there is clearly no genuine issue as to any material fact.[52]

Based on the foregoing, this Court deems it necessary to delve briefly on the nature of the action of quieting of title
as applied in this case. This Court's ruling in Calacala, et al. v. Republic, et al.[53] is instructive on this matter, thus:

To begin with, it bears emphasis that an action for quieting of title is essentially a common law remedy grounded on
equity. As we held in Baricuatro, Jr. vs. CA:[54]

Regarding the nature of the action filed before the trial court, quieting of title is a common law remedy for the
removal of any cloud upon or doubt or uncertainty with respect to title to real property. Originating in equity
jurisprudence, its purpose is to secure x x x an adjudication that a claim of title to or an interest in property, adverse
to that of the complainant, is invalid, so that the complainant and those claiming under him may be forever
afterward free from any danger of hostile claim. In an action for quieting of title, the competent court is tasked to
determine the respective rights of the complainant and other claimants, x x x not only to place things in their proper
place, to make the one who has no rights to said immovable respect and not disturb the other, but also for the
benefit of both, so that he who has the right would see every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he
could afterwards without fear introduce the improvements he may desire, to use, and even to abuse the property as
he deems best xxx.

Under Article 476 of the New Civil Code, the remedy may be availed of only when, by reason of any instrument,
record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding, which appears valid but is, in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable, or
unenforceable, a cloud is thereby cast on the complainants title to real property or any interest therein. The codal
provision reads:

Article 476. Whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein, by reason of any instrument,
record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact invalid,
ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title, an action may be brought to remove
such cloud or to quiet the title.

An action may also be brought to prevent a cloud from being cast upon title to real property or any interest therein.
In turn, Article 477 of the same Code identifies the party who may bring an action to quiet title, thus:

Article 477. The plaintiff must have legal or equitable title to, or interest in the real property which is the subject-
matter of the action. He need not be in possession of said property.

It can thus be seen that for an action for quieting of title to prosper, the plaintiff must first have a legal, or, at least,
an equitable title on the real property subject of the action and that the alleged cloud on his title must be shown to
be in fact invalid. So it is that in Robles, et al. vs. CA,[55] we ruled:

It is essential for the plaintiff or complainant to have a legal title or an equitable title to or interest in the real
property which is the subject matter of the action. Also, the deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding that is being
alleged as a cloud on plaintiffs title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie
appearance of validity or legal efficacy.

Verily, for an action to quiet title to prosper, two (2) indispensable requisites must concur, namely: (1) the plaintiff or
complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and (2) the deed,
claim, encumbrance, or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or
inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.

Respondents, in their Complaint, claim that they have become the owners in fee-simple title of the subject land by
occupation and possession under the provisions of Sec. 48 (b) of the Public Land Law or Commonwealth Act No. 141,
as amended. Thus, it appears that the first requisite has been satisfied. Anent the second requisite, respondents
enumerated several facts that would tend to prove the invalidity of the claim of the petitioner. All of these claims,
which would correspond to the two requisites for the quieting of title, are factual; and, as discussed earlier, the
petitioner interposed its objections and duly disputed the said claims, thus, presenting genuine issues that can only
be resolved through a full-blown trial.

Anent the propriety of the filing of an action for the quieting of title, the indefeasibility and incontrovertibility of the
decree of registration come into question. Under Sec. 32 of P.D. No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree:

Section 32. Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value. The decree of registration shall not be
reopened or revised by reason of absence, minority, or other disability of any person adversely affected thereby, nor
by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments, subject, however, to the right of any person, including the
government and the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by such adjudication or
confirmation of title obtained by actual fraud, to file in the proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening
and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and after the date of the entry of such decree
of registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value
has acquired the land or an interest therein, whose rights may be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase "innocent
purchaser for value" or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee,
mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.

Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued shall
become incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by
action for damages against the applicant or any other persons responsible for the fraud.

As borne out by the records and undisputed by the parties, OCT No. 0-660 of petitioner was issued on August 29,
1997 pursuant to a Decree issued on August 20, 1997, while the complaint for the quieting of title in Civil Case No.
TG-1784 was filed and docketed on March 5, 1998; hence, applying the above provisions, it would seem that the
period of one (1) year from the issuance of the decree of registration has not elapsed for the review thereof.
However, a closer examination of the above provisions would clearly indicate that the action filed, which was for
quieting of title, was not the proper remedy.

Courts may reopen proceedings already closed by final decision or decree when an application for review is filed by
the party aggrieved within one year from the issuance of the decree of registration.[56] However, the basis of the
aggrieved party must be anchored solely on actual fraud. Shedding light on the matter is a discussion presented in
one of the recognized textbooks on property registration,[57] citing decisions of this Court, thus:

The right of a person deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by adjudication or confirmation of title
obtained by actual fraud is recognized by law as a valid and legal basis for reopening and revising a decree of
registration.[58] One of the remedies available to him is a petition for review. To avail of a petition for review, the
following requisites must be satisfied:

(a) The petitioner must have an estate or interest in the land;

(b) He must show actual fraud in the procurement of the decree of registration;

(c) The petition must be filed within one year from the issuance of the decree by the Land Registration Authority;
and

(d) The property has not yet passed to an innocent purchaser for value.[59]

A mere claim of ownership is not sufficient to avoid a certificate of title obtained under the Torrens system. An
important feature of a certificate of title is its finality. The proceedings whereby such a title is obtained are directed
against all persons, known or unknown, whether actually served with notice or not, and includes all who have an
interest in the land. If they do not appear and oppose the registration of their own estate or interest in the property
in the name of another, judgment is rendered against them by default, and, in the absence of fraud, such judgment
is conclusive. If an interest in the land will not by itself operate to vacate a decree of registration, a fortiori, fraud is
not alone sufficient to do so.[60]

As further pointed out in the same book,[61] the petition for review must be filed within one year from entry of the
decree of registration. As written:

As long as a final decree has not been entered by the Land Registration Authority and period of one year has not
elapsed from the date of entry of such decree, the title is not finally adjudicated and the decision in the registration
case continues to be under the control and sound discretion of the registration court.[62] After the lapse of said
period, the decree becomes incontrovertible and no longer subject to reopening or review.

Section 32 provides that a petition for review of the decree of registration may be filed not later than one year from
and after the date of entry of such decree of registration. Giving this provision a literal interpretation, it may at first
blush seem that the petition for review cannot be presented until the final decree has been entered. However, it has
been ruled that the petition may be filed at any time after the rendition of the court's decision and before the
expiration of one year from the entry of the final decree of registration for, as noted in Rivera v. Moran,[63] there
can be no possible reason requiring the complaining party to wait until the final decree is entered before urging his
claim for fraud.

The one-year period stated in Sec. 32 within which a petition to re-open and review the decree of registration refers
to the decree of registration described in Section 31, which decree is prepared and issued by the Land Registration
Administrator.[64]

The provision of Section 31 that every decree of registration shall bind the land, quiet title thereto, and be conclusive
upon and against all persons, including the national government, and Sec. 32 that the decree shall not be reopened
or revised by reason of absence, minority or other disability or by any proceeding in court, save only in cases of
actual fraud and then only for one year from the entry of the decree, must be understood as referring to final and
unappealable decrees of registration. A decision or, as it is sometimes called after entry, a decree of a registration
court, does not become final and unappealable until fifteen days after the interested parties have been notified of its
entry, and during that period may be set aside by the trial judge on motion for new trial, upon any of the grounds
stated in the Rules of Court.[65] An appeal from the decision of the trial court prevents the judgment from becoming
final until that decree is affirmed by the judgment of the appellate court.[66]

A petition for review under Section 32 is a remedy separate and distinct from a motion for new trial and the right to
the remedy is not affected by the denial of such a motion irrespective of the grounds upon which it may have been
presented. Thus, where petitioners acquired their interest in the land before any final decree had been entered, the
litigation was therefore in effect still pending and, in these circumstances, they can hardly be considered innocent
purchasers in good faith.[67]

Where the petition for review of a decree of registration is filed within the one-year period from entry of the decree,
it is error for the court to deny the petition without hearing the evidence in support of the allegation of actual and
extrinsic fraud upon which the petition is predicated. The petitioner should be afforded an opportunity to prove such
allegation.[68]
In the present case, the one-year period before the Torrens title becomes indefeasible and incontrovertible has not
yet expired; thus, a review of the decree of registration would have been the appropriate remedy.

Based on the above disquisitions, the other issues raised by the petitioner are necessarily rendered inconsequential.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari of petitioner Eland Philippines, Inc. is hereby GRANTED, and the
decision dated February 28, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 67417, which dismissed the appeal
of petitioner Eland Philippines, Inc. and affirmed the resolutions dated November 3, 1999 and June 28, 2006 of
Branch 18, RTC of Tagaytay City, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Consequently, the resolutions dated November
3, 1999 and June 28, 2006 of Branch 18, RTC of Tagaytay City in Civil Case No. TG-1784 are hereby declared NULL and
VOID.

SO ORDERED.