QUIETING TITLE, OR REMOVING CLOUD ON TITLE, OVER ACCRETION OR ALLUVION

Atty. Jessa Wong-Cantano1

The action to quiet title, or remove clouds from title, to real estate, is a well-established remedy in American law. It has for its purpose the quieting of title or removal of a cloud therefrom when there is an apparently valid or effective instrument or other claim which in reality is void, ineffective, voidable or unenforceable. The principle for this action is: equity comes to the aid of him who would suffer if the instrument were enforced. He is in good conscience entitled to a removal of the cloud or doubt upon his title. On the other hand, the respondent has no legal or moral ground to hold the instrument against the petitioner·s title.2 In the Philippines, Article 476 of the New Civil Code provides the substantive law on the matter, while Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides for the procedure in bringing an action to quiet title, or to remove clouds, from title to real property. Accretion, on the other hand, is the increase in the riparian land by the gradual deposit, by water, of solid material, whether mud, sand, or sediment, so as to cause that to become dry land which was before covered with water. Accretion denotes the process, while alluvion is applied to the deposit itself, although the terms are frequently used synonymously.3 The basic rule in accretion is, to the owners of land adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion (or alluvion) which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters.4 Of these two (2) distinct concepts, it can be queried: is a quiet title suit the proper remedy to enforce one·s claim over accretion or alluvion? And, can one, in the same quiet title suit, ask for reconveyance of title over the accretion or alluvion, or, for settlement of a boundary dispute involving such accretion or alluvion?
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The author is an associate of the Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz (Davao Branch). Before she joined the Firm, she was with the Department of Justice (Main), where, within the year that she was with that office, she was promoted from Attorney II (Technical Staff), to Associate Prosecution Attorney II, and detailed with the Malolos, Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor, the Meycauayan City (Bulacan) Prosecutor, and the Manila City Prosecutor. Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, Vol. II., 1999 Ed., p. 148, citing Commission Report, p. 55. 78 Am Jur 2d, page 851. Article 457, The New Civil Code.

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Y. American jurisprudence on quite title cases provides no immutable rules. jurisdiction to grant relief by way of quieting of title or removal of cloud from title is inherent in a court which exercises equity powers. or an action to remove cloud on title. Quieting Title: Its Origin and Basis. citing Sanders v. and which may be used to injure or vex him in the future. 65 Am Jur 2d. and avers that the claim is without foundation.A. but ´lights its own pathway. 182 N. supra. adverse to that of the claimant. is invalid. but also avers the source and nature of defendant·s claim. with the result that the claimant and those claiming under him may forever be free from danger of the hostile claim. delivery of. Saxton. the plaintiff asserts his own estate and declares generally that defendant claims some estate in the land. at p. Such proceedings have for their purpose an adjudication that a claim of title to or an interest in property. an action to quiet title has been distinguished from a suit to remove cloud. 134. and calls on the defendant by decree. blazes its own trail. See also 65 AmJur 29. Quieting Title and Removal of Cloud: Difference of Actions. 477. encumbrance. Being an equity suit in nature. 148. ibid. and prays that it be declared void. 5 Tolentino. without defining it. citing 51 C. strictly construed. at pp. is a remedy which originated in the courts of equity. point out its defects. Such actions originated in the chancery courts to correct abuses encouraged under the common-law system under which designing litigants harassed and annoyed the rightful owner by bringing successive actions in ejectment. An action to remove cloud is intended to procure the cancellation. See also Tolentino. plaintiff not declares his own title. 6 Page 2 of 14 .J.5 B.6 Under American laws. A quiet title action. is substantially an action for the purpose of putting an end to vexatious litigation in respect to the property involved. or claim constituting a claim on plaintiff·s title. release of an instrument. in the enjoyment of his title. At the outset. while in a suit to remove a cloud. page 142. An action to quiet title. page 141. it must be emphasized that. 148-149. In an action to quiet title.

considering that our courts here are both courts of law and equity. and may be prejudicial to said 7 65 Am Jur 2d. 122196. Safe Deposit & T.11 C. claim..7 The basis of equitable relief for removal of a cloud in title is the principle that. The applicable Philippine laws and jurisprudential rules on Quieting Title. R. to prevent multiplicity of actions. 65 Am Jur 2d. Mañacop Construction Co. in short. v. record. page 142. a deed or other instrument or proceedings constituting the cloud may not be used injuriously or vexatiously to embarrass or affect the title of a plaintiff in possession. or unenforceable. 8 9 10 11 Page 3 of 14 . at page 142. 160 Md 457. however. Suits to quiet or remove a cloud from title developed from what were anciently termed ´bills quia timetµ or ´bills of peaceµ. Article 476 and 478 of the New Civil Code state: ³Whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein. against repeated or continued trespasses or continuing or recurring invasion of property rights.9 In jurisdictions in which distinctions between the chancery court or court of equity and the court of law has been preserved. such distinction is of no moment. because of the inadequacy of the remedy at law. ineffective. 1997. and. F. G. by reason of any instrument. v.10 In the Philippines. Basic Principles and Issues. Court of Appeals and MIAA.paves its own highway. 78 ALR 8. Homewood Realty Corp. No. Co. remedies which originated in and appertained to the jurisdiction of the courts of chancery. quiet title suits are not maintainable except in chancery courts. voidable. such remedy was developed by courts of equity. 154 A 58. January 15. Inc. Ibid. page 143. F. it is. an appeal to the conscience of the courts of equity. encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact invalid.8 Stated differently.

An action may also be brought to prevent a cloud from being cast upon title to real property or any interest therein. claim.´ Thus. for an action to quiet title to prosper. He need not be in possession of said property. in order to maintain a quiet title action. namely: (1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of action. and be in possession of the property at the time of the institution of the action or. (1) Plaintiff¶s legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of action. Page 4 of 14 . that one who has only an equitable or beneficial title to the property may maintain an action to quiet such title or 12 65 Am Jur 2d. the plaintiff must have legal or registered title to the property in question. however. Generally speaking. or to some interest therein. an action may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title. page 170. or has been barred by extinctive prescription. as against one who comes into a pending action. instrument or other obligation has been extinguished or has terminated.12 It must be stressed. 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. and (2) the deed.´ ³There may also be an action to quiet title or remove a cloud therefrom when the contract.´ Article 477 of the same Code identifies the party who may bring an action to quiet title: ³The plaintiff must have legal or equitable title to. or interest in the real property which is the subject matter of the action. at the time he becomes a party. two (2) indispensable requisites must concur.title.

for the plaintiff to institute a quiet title action. his only right is to remove or prevent cloud. 14 15 Page 5 of 14 . and. II. even though he is out of possession. (2) If the plaintiff is out of possession. 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.remove a cloud therefrom. A ´cloud on titleµ is an outstanding instrument. Ibid.15 (2) The deed. page 305. is not necessary. within the proper prescriptive periods. and it has to be proved by extrinsic evidence. The matter complained of must have a prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. but which may nevertheless impair or affect injuriously the title to property. at page 172. 2008 Edition. he may also bring the ordinary actions of ejectment. record. but.14 Possession therefore. the period to file the action prescribes. Paras. from being given the right to remove or prevent cloud. 13 Ibid. encumbrance or proceeding which is actually invalid or inoperative. The plaintiff may be in possession or not in possession: the differences in effects are: (1) If the plaintiff is in possession. claim. at page 173. citing 44 AmJur 46-47. suits to quiet title may be maintained by the holder of the equitable title against a defendant who is vested with the legal title to the property subject of the case. publiciana or reivindicatoria. The invalidity or inoperativeness of the instrument is not apparent on the face of the instrument. Civil Code of the Philippines Annotated. aside. The cloud on title is a semblance of title which appears in some legal form but which is in fact unfounded. 13 In fact. Vol. the period to file the action does not prescribe. claim.

) 56 Off.18 Accretion as a mode of acquiring property under Article 457 of the Civil Code requires the concurrence of the following requisites: (1) that the deposition of soil or sediment be gradual and imperceptible. Court of Appeals. Court of Appeals. where the instrument is invalid or inefficacious on its face.R. and 16 Republic v.A. citing Cortes v. 567. said estates are subject to encumbrances and various kinds of easements. 2 Navarro Amandi 93. it is obvious that. it is proper that the risk or danger which may prejudice the owners thereof should be compensated by the right of accretion. 2 Valverde 97. and in the interests of agriculture. 10 Phil. the riparian owner to whose land the accretion is attached is in a better position than anyone else to cultivate the accretion. Janaury 7. 1987. 17 18 Page 6 of 14 . If estates bordering on rivers are exposed to floods and other evils produced by the destructive force of the waters and if by virtue of lawful provisions. the law grants him such accretion. 3 Manresa 231-232. (C. Tolentino.17 Furthermore. No.16 D. October 12. at p.R. Director of Lands V. (2) that it be the result of the action of the waters of the river. Basic Principles and Issues. Compania General de Tabacos v. L-61647. 1984. G. Director of Lands. No. citing 3 Vera 78. 48265. Article 457 of the New Civil Code states: ´To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters.µ The reason behind the law giving the riparian owner the right to any land or alluvion deposited by a river is to compensate him for the danger of loss that he suffers because of the location of his land.Thus. an action to remove cloud on title does not exist. and expediency dictates that they be given to the owner of the land on which they are deposited for he can best utilize them. nobody can tell from whose lands they come. The applicable Philippine laws and jurisprudential rules on Accretion or Alluvion. or where it can be shown to be invalid or inefficacious without the need of presenting extrinsic evidence. G. supra. 126. Nobody can prove the ownership over such gradual accumulation of sediment. 1418. City of Manila. Gaz.

19 the riparian owner is also afforded the benefit of the legal presumption20 that. 1998. 1996. 55 (1929). 116290. the rule therefore is. the change was gradual and was caused by accretion and erosion. page 852). 22 At present. the ground or reason for filing a complaint for quieting of title must be ´an instrument. 20 21 22 23 Page 7 of 14 . Garcia.133.21 E. v. No. Quieting Title as an action to Claim Ownership over Accretion or Alluvion. these grounds are exclusive so that other reasons outside of the purview of these reasons may not be considered valid for the same action. March 6. Mariano Tuason..23 the Supreme Court declared that a case of boundary dispute is not cognizable in a special civil action to quiet title. 111141. Payatas Estate Improvement Co. encumbrance or proceeding. Hodges v. or a sudden change in the bed or course of a stream (78 AmJur 2d. Court of Appeals. under recent laws and rules. November 21. G.R. vs. record. 135 (1960). et al. 2000. C. Court of Appeals and Laurio. December 8. De Aviles. and Bagaipo v. 19 ³Avulsion´ is a sudden and perceptible loss or addition to land by the action of water. aside from the right of accretion itself. et al.R. N. Citing American jurisprudential rules. Notably. 53 Phil. G.(3) that the land where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers. Titong v. it held: ³An action to quiet title or to remove cloud may not be brought for the purpose of settling a boundary dispute. and pursuant to the maxim expresio mius est exclusio alterius. 109 Phil. In Vda.R. G. claim. a quieting title action cannot be availed of for settling boundary disputes.µ Thus. and in the absence of evidence that the change in the course of the river was sudden or that it occurred through avulsion. To reiterate. ³Erosion´ means the gradual washing away of land bordering on a stream or body of water by the action of the water (78 AmJur 2d. Court of Appeals and Aviles. 95748. No. page 852). No.

So that there is no paper the existence of which clouds the title of either party. in an action for quieting of title. said: "The fundamental dispute is about the correct position of the line between lots 3 and 7. and a defendant out of possession. and the title papers of neither fix its precise location. Jenkinson (1883) 51 Mich. during their occupancy. The line which separates them is in dispute and is to be determined by evidence aliunde. Another similarly instructive precedent reported in the same reference is also quoted below: In Kilgannon v. destroyed and obliterated the boundary line between their adjoining tracts of land. or paper showing any color of title in the defendant. but it is a case where the titles are not opposed. and the basis and existence of all right and claim depend simply upon where the original line runs. 262. The case is not one where a complainant in possession of a specific piece of land. When that is once settled. which could cast a shadow on the title of complainants to any part of the land. order the determination of the boundaries of the claimed property.W. McKenzie (1890) 92 Ala. and the issue on that particular question is one regularly triable at law. it was held that a bill did not lie to remove a cloud on the complainants' title. Each admits that the other has title up to his line wherever it may be. proceeding. and nothing could be delivered up and canceled under the decree of the court undertaking to remove a cloud. as that would be Page 8 of 14 . 390. 240. 484.The precedent on this matter cited by the respondent Court in its Decision is herewith reproduced in full: In Ashurst v. written contract. but claiming some right or title. we hold that the trial court (and likewise the respondent Court) cannot. are contending as to which one has the better right to that same parcel. where the complainants' predecessor in title and the defendant had. The court said: "There is no allegation or evidence of any muniment of title.´ It further held that: ³From another perspective. the court. 16 N. there can remain no semblance of claim or cloud to be passed on. there is no overlapping of description in the muniments held by either. The land of complainants and defendant join. dismissing a bill to quiet title. 9 So. and there was now a dispute as to its location.

and not possession de jure. can the landowner seek a declaration of his ownership over the accretion or alluvion in the same ejectment case? The answer. citing 3 Moran's Comments on the Rules of Court. is.24 But. encumbrance or proceeding the existence of which clouds the title of the landowner over the accretion or alluvion. 24 Gutierrez v. 1975. Page 9 of 14 . The subject matter here is merely the physical or material possession or possession de facto over the accretion or alluvion.R. or for recovery of possession de facto. as. G. claim. As in the Vda. claim. No. other than the "instrument. pp. Such determination of boundaries is appropriate in adversarial proceedings where possession or ownership may properly be considered and where evidence aliunde. the proper action to be filed is not a quieting title action. who had actual possession over the piece of real property? Second. Magat. encumbrance or proceeding" itself. whenever warranted by the period prescribed in Rule 70. record. also within the prescribed period. record. after all. Consider the following scenarios: (a) Landowner files an action against possessors of accretion or alluvion which.´ It is important to take into consideration the foregoing pronouncements in choosing the proper remedy for enforcing one·s claim of ownership over accretion or alluvion. L-39739 October 3. but an action for ejectment. encumbrance or proceeding involved constitutes a cloud upon the petitioners' interest or title in and to said property.tantamount to awarding to one or some of the parties the disputed property in an action where the sole issue is limited to whether the instrument. the questions to be resolved simply are these: First. as well as the cited cases of Ashurst and Kilgannon. The considered view is. he cannot. 1970 Ed. there is no instrument. claim. by law and by legal title. of course. may be introduced.. may be availed of by the petitioners. is actually owned by him. An action for forcible entry. in ejectment cases. record. was the possessor ousted therefrom within one year from the filing of the complaint by force. De Aviles case. 303-304. in which proceeding the boundary dispute may be fully threshed out.

and Cuevas. There must be a separate action for him to be able to enforce his legal title over the accretion or alluvion. 1987. once and for all. should the landowner file against the possessors in order to obtain a declaration. Concina. L-23756. under our laws. Inc. December 27. 168800. 75860. however. 26 27 Page 10 of 14 . No. September 17. This is so because. does he ask for the restoration of his possession? Any controversy over ownership rights should be settled after the party who had the prior. G. the transfer of property. April 16. or stealth? And lastly. Concina. Jr.26 Indeed. So much so that the pendency of an action for reconveyance of title over the same property does not divest the city or municipal court of its jurisdiction to try the forcible entry or unlawful detainer case. is actually owned by him. is an action for reconveyance the proper remedy. strategy. RTC-Manila and Ko. whereas in an action for reconveyance. and not a quieting title action? And. even with an existing ejectment case. What then. the purpose of which is to seek.threat. What is involved in the ejectment case is merely the issue of material possession or possession de facto. an ejectment case has an entirely different subject from that of an action for reconveyance of title. v.25 (b) Landowner files an action against possessors and/or registered owners of accretion or alluvion which. ownership is the issue. an action for reconveyance. 2009. wrongfully or erroneously registered by another. among others. peaceful and actual possession is returned to the property. the judgment rendered in an action for forcible entry or detainer shall be effective with respect to the possession only and in no case bind the title or affect the ownership of the land or building.27 But then again. No. the landowner is not precluded by law to file.R. being the rightful and legal owner. Tanjuatco. Such judgment shall not bar an action between the same parties respecting title to the land or building nor shall it be held conclusive of the facts therein found in case between the same parties upon a different cause of action involving possession. Dizon v. 1969. G. by law. nor will it preclude or bar execution of judgment in the ejectment case where the only issue involved is material possession or possession de facto. Be it noted. in a situation where the landowner already filed an 25 Dizon v. simultaneously or subsequently. G. that the accretion or alluvion is owned by him? As previously stated.R. an ejectment case will not suffice. that. New Regent Sources. No. to him. Ang Ping and Pimentel v.R.

claim. Inc. If a person claiming to be its owner is in actual possession of the property. Quijano. thus: The Court has ruled that the 10-year prescriptive period applies only when the person enforcing the trust is not in possession of the property. ineffective. voidable. wrongfully registered by another. reconveyance is an action distinct from an action for quieting of title. February 20. 2006.action to quiet title. Ibid. supra. The reference point of the 10-year 28 Ney v. invalid.28 However. the Supreme Court has allowed the treatment or characterization of an action for reconveyance as an action to quiet title. June 23. His undisturbed possession gives him a continuing right to seek the aid of a court of equity to ascertain and determine the nature of the adverse claim of a third party and its effect on his own title. does not prescribe. is there a need for him to subsequently file a separate action for reconveyance of title? Again. 143185. as cited in Ney v. Victory Hills. which is filed whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein. and may be prejudicial to said title for purposes of removing such cloud or to quiet title.R. time and again. the right to seek reconveyance. No. The ruling was reiterated in Lasquite v. Quijano. The reason is that the one who is in actual possession of the land claiming to be its owner may wait until his possession is disturbed or his title is attacked before taking steps to vindicate his right. to its rightful and legal owner. 29 30 31 Page 11 of 14 . 2010. as cited in Ney v.R. explaining. encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact.R. record.: An action for reconveyance based on an implied trust prescribes in 10 years. Quijano. 31 viz. G.. August 4. Apao. Bearing this in mind. No. supra.29 Thus: In Mendizabel v. 2009. G. 175375. an action for reconveyance is one that seeks to transfer property. which in effect seeks to quiet title to the property. G. it is clear therefore that. 178609. or unenforceable. No. which right can be claimed only by one who is in possession. by reason of any instrument.30 we treated a similar action for reconveyance as an action to quiet title.

as otherwise stated. or even an action to settle boundary disputes. Va. Sr. etc. as cited in Heirs of Valientes v. an action for reconveyance. However. 108 W. excessive litigation or circuitry of action. in fact. supra. such as an accretion or alluvion? It is the considered view that. 2010. G. the higher and nobler purpose of avoiding multiplicity of suits and prevention of litigation must be taken into account in resolving this issue. 104813.35 Thus. if the plaintiff.R. however. 530. the prescriptive period to recover title and possession of the property does not run against him. December 15. No.R. 166577. Ramas. Tolentino.´36 Verily. or. et al33 and Spouses Carpo v. After all. February 3. Incorporated. so as to eliminate the need to file another action to enforce ownership or effect transfer of title over a property. Quijano.34 The more important question. 33 34 35 36 Page 12 of 14 .prescriptive period is the date of registration of the deed or the issuance of the title. citing Gardener v. 152 S. G. No. 673. in a proper case.32 and the fairly recent cases of Brito. page 167. as the real owner of the property also remains in possession of the property. if nonetheless filed. In such a case. can an action to quiet title be treated or characterized as an action for reconveyance.E. Ayala Land.´ The same pronouncements were made in Heirs of Jose Olviga v. v. multiplicity of suits may be avoided when a court taking cognizance of a quieting title case will no longer be precluded from adjudicating 32 G. one of the reasons for which equity interferes to remove a cloud on title. G. an action that is imprescriptible. to prevent a multiplicity of suits. is this: in the same manner that an action for reconveyance may be treated as an action for quieting title. supra. No. it will interpose. Buckeye Savings.R. 171717. citing Ney v. October 21.. December 15. No. it was held: ³Equity will interfere in actions to quiet title to prevent multiplicity of suits where ample and perfect justice can be done. such purpose is. 2010. Court of Appeals. would be in the nature of a suit for quieting of title.R. 1993. 157852. 2010. Dianala. 65 Am Jur 2d. The prescriptive period applies only if there is an actual need to reconvey the property as when the plaintiff is not in possession of the property.

and then only under the rule that equitable jurisdiction taken for one purpose is taken for all purposes. misconduct. it may be noted that a number of the cases have held that a bill to quiet title or to remove cloud on a title may not be brought solely for the purpose of settling a disputed boundary. There must be. In this connection. and complete relief will be granted. As held under American jurisprudence: ³In the absence of any special statutory jurisdiction granted to it.´37 Indeed. for as long as it can be shown that. some special ground of equitable interposition. Page 13 of 14 . record.the issue of transferring the title of the subject property to its rightful owner. in addition to this. claim. such as a mutual mistake of the parties. In other words. or even settling boundary disputes. equitable powers with relation to boundary disputes may be exercised only where such dispute is ancillary to the main issue in the case. or unfairness on the part of the defendant. pages 628-629. a court of equity may take jurisdiction to determine confused boundaries. encumbrance or proceedingµ which constitutes a cloud on one·s title. the court may in its determination of the cause settle questions of disputed boundaries. there is an ´instrument. and a neglect of such duty so that the boundary has become confused. before a court of equity will assume jurisdiction and fix or determine the location of confused or obliterated boundary lines. the matter of the boundary must be truly ancillary to the main issue and not merely a pretext for the exercise of the jurisdiction of equity. fraud. a court of equity is not authorized to assume jurisdiction over a mere controversy or dispute over the location of a boundary line between adjacent landowners or a confusion of boundaries. which is necessarily produced as an 37 12 Am Jur 2d. If a multiplicity of suits is inherent in a reference of the parties to their legal remedies. although where there are other grounds for invoking the jurisdiction of equity. the ancillary issue of disputed boundaries. or the existence of a relationship between the parties which makes it the duty of one of them to preserve and protect the boundary.

considering that. the supposed registered owner of the accretion cannot even validly invoke the indefeasibility of his title.R. G. he may seek the declaration of nullity of such title. the same court where the action to quiet title was instituted may likewise settle the issue of boundaries. because of the existence of a certificate of title over accretion or alluvion. December 8. institutes a special civil action for quieting of title. Court of Appeals. as a rule. in a scenario where a landowner. invalid and prejudicial to his legal or equitable title as riparian owner. Such accretions are natural incidents to land bordering on running streams. seek settlement of the boundary dispute between him and the registered owner. 116290. No. and in the same case. which on its face is valid. 2000. and even the reconveyance of the title to his name.offshoot of such existence of a cloud. Page 14 of 14 . Thus. And. registration does not protect the riparian owner against the diminution of the area of his land through gradual changes in the course of the adjoining stream. Accretions which the banks of rivers may gradually receive from the effect of the current become the property of the owners of the banks. but which is in truth and in fact. for example. and the provisions of the Civil Code in that respect are not affected by the Land Registration Act.38 ---=o0o=--- 38 Bagaipo v. or reconvey title to the rightful owner.

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