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Importance and Purpose of Land Registration

The boldest effort to grapple with the problem of simplification of title to land was made
by 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”. The
certificate is guaranteed by statute, and, with certain exceptions, constitutes indefeasible title to
the land mentioned therein. The “Torrens” systems generally are meant those systems of
registration of transactions with the 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.

The Philippine government has adopted the Torrens System due to its being the most
effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect their indefeasibility once
the claim of ownership is established and recognized. The real purpose of the Torrens system of
registration, as expressed in Legarda vs Saleeby, 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. Once a title is
registered the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the courts, or sitting in
his home, 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 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.

The Torrens system aims to decree land titles that shall be final, irrevocable, and
indisputable, and to relieve the land of the burden of known as well as unknown claims. The
registration compels the claimants to come to 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. A
certificate of title implies that the title is quiet, and that it is perfect, absolute and indefeasible. It
is conclusive as to all matters contained therein, including the ownership of the land.

As clearly expostulated in Casimiro Development Corporation vs. Mateo:

“ The government is required under the Torrens system


of registration to issue an official certificate of title to attest to
the fact that person named in the certificate is the owner of the
property therein described, subject to such liens and
encumbrances as thereon noted or what the law warrants or
reserves. The objective is to obviate possible conflicts of title by
giving the public the right to rely upon the face of the Torrens
Certificate and to dispense, as a rule, with the necessity of
inquiring further. The Torrens system gives the registered owner
completes peace of mind, in order that he will be secured in his
ownership as long as he has not voluntarily disposed of any right
over the covered land.”

A Torrens title is conclusive evidence with respect to the ownership of the land described
therein, and other matters which can be litigated and decided in land registration proceedings.
Tax Declarations and tax receipts cannot prevail over a certificate of title which is inconvertible
proof of ownership. However, the Torrens system does not furnish a shield for fraud, nor permit
one to enrich himself at the expense of others, otherwise its acceptability is impaired. The
indefeasibility of a title does not attach to titles secured by fraud and misrepresentation. The
registration is not an impediment to a declaration by the courts of its invalidity.

The primary purpose of the Torrens system of registration is to decree land titles that
shall be final, irrevocable, and undisputable. Incontestability is the goal. As expressed in Section
31 of the Property Registration Decree, “The decree of registration shall bind the land and”, and
shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the National Government and all the
branches thereof.” Further, as stated in Section 32, “the decree shall not be reopened or revised
by reason of absence, minority, or other disability of any person affected thereby, nor by any
proceeding in court for reversing judgments, subject, however, to the right of any person
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 Regional Trial Court a petition for reopening and
review of the decree of registration after one year from and after the date of the entry of such
decree of registration.

A certificate of title is the best proof of ownership of land. The title, once registered, is to
notice to the world. All persons must take notice. No one can plead ignorance of registration.
(Property Registration Decree and Related Laws- Land Titles and Deeds by Justice Oswaldo D.
Agcaoili)