by Joline Ponce

VICENTE SOTTO v. FILEMON SOTTO, GR No. 17768, 1922-09-01

Facts:

petitioner alleges that he is the owner of said lot... he absented himself from the city of Cebu... leaving the respondent in charge of the lot;... the petitioner, upon visiting the office of the... clerk of the Court of First Instance of Cebu, discovered that the respondent had fraudulently obtained the registration of said lot in his own name and that a certificate of title for said lot had been issued to said respondent... that the petitioner... was unable to appear in court in the land registration proceedings and to defend his rights... that this action is his only remedy to recover the property in question

Issues:

section 513 of the Code of Civil Procedure is not applicable to decisions in land registration proceedings which are covered by a final decree and this is the only question of importance raised

Ruling:

Its features of finality and indefeasibility constitute the cornerstone of the Land Registration Act; if we eliminate them we may still have a land registration system but it will not be a Torrens system. To hold that the Legislature by a mere reference in Act No. 1108 to... section 513 of the Code of Civil Procedure intended to include such final decrees in the term "judgment" as employed in that section would therefore be equivalent to holding that it proposed in this casual manner to abolish the Torrens system in these Islands, a system which had... given general satisfaction, and to substitute therefor a mongrel system with all the disadvantages of Torrens registration but without its principal advantages.

It would lay a final land registration decree open to successive attacks by persons claiming to have been deprived of their interest in the decreed land by default and would throw the title back into the... realm of oral evidence, which, in land disputes in this country, has always been found notoriously unreliable

Moreover, an examination of the Land Registration Act shows clearly that its prime object is to give the greatest possible protection to the bona fide holders of the certificates of title provided for in the Act.

t shows clearly that its prime object is to give the greatest possible protection to the bona fide holders of the certificates of title provided for in the Act. If a final decree of confirmation and registration... should be reopened and cancelled, it is, of course, obvious that all certificates of title issued under the decree would fail whether the holders were guilty of bad faith or not; as far as the validity of his title might be concerned, the bona fide holder of a transfer... certificate an innocent third party would be exactly in the same position as the holder in bad faith of the first certificate issued under a decree

If we, on the other hand, hold that in land registration matters section 513 of the Code of Civil Procedure applies only to those judgments which are not covered by final decrees of confirmation (of which the Caballes case offers a good example) all difficulties in... reconciling the amended section 14 of the Land Registration Act with its other sections disappear and the registration system established by the Act will remain intact. In view of the fact that it obviously was not the intention of the Legislature to introduce any radical... changes in the system itself, this seems to be the only rational construction which can be placed upon the law.

Such an interpretation can in reality impose no material hardship upon the aggrieved party; he still has his right of action for damages against the person who has unjustly deprived him of his land and if the title has not been transferred to a third party, an attachment may... be levied upon the land. Recourse may also be had to the assurance fund in proper cases. Furthermore, we have already held in the case of Cabanos vs. Register of Deeds of Laguna and ObiƱana (40 Phil., 620), that in certain cases a suit in equity may be maintained to compel the... conveyance of registered land to the true owner.

A person who, through no fault of his own, has been deprived of his land through registration proceedings is thus offered all the remedies which he, in justice and equity, ought to have; to go farther and allow his claims to prevail against the rights of a bona fide... purchaser for value from the holder of a registered title is neither justice nor common sense and is, as we have seen, subversive of the object of the Land Registration Act. This, as far as we can see, would be the inevitable and logical consequence of adopting the doctrine that... final land registration decrees may be reopened; it is inconceivable that a certificate of title can stand when the decree upon which it is based fails.

For the reasons stated, we hold that the so called "decree of confirmation and registration" provided for in the Land Registration Act is not a judgment within the meaning of section 513 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and that such a decree cannot be reopened except for the... reasons and in the manner stated in section 38 of the Land Registration Act.

Principles:

Section 513 of the Code of Civil Procedure... e and it apparently did not occur to the members... of the legal profession that t... final decrees in land registration cases were always regarded as indefeasible... the... he provisions of section 513, supra, could be applied to such decrees or to the orders or decisions upon which they were based... this court has consistently held that final decrees in land registration... cases could not be reopened except under the circumstances, and in the manner, mentioned in section 38 of the Land Registration Act.

The dominant principle of the Torrens system of land registration is that the titles registered thereunder are indefeasible or as nearly so as it is possible to make them.

This principle is recognized to the fullest extent in our Land Registration Act and gives the Act its principal value.

. In section 36 of the Act the

The Land Registration Act itself distinguishes between a judgment and the final decree.

decision rendered by the court is styled "a judgment."

The final "decree of confirmation... and registration" is separate and distinct from the judgment and cannot be entered until at least thirty days after such judgment has been rendered.