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[ GR No. 24701, Aug 25, 1926 ]



49 Phil. 252

[ G. R. No. 24701, August 25, 1926 ]


[G. R. NO 24735]




These two cases involve a  controversy over a strip of land located in the barrio of Poblacion, municipality of Jaen, Province of Nueva Ecija, separating two parcels admittedly belonging to the respective claimants, Juan Ortiz Luis and Gallardo Brothers.   The parcel in question is in the shape of a wedge, resting on a short base constituting its southern boundary and extending to an acute apex more than 500  meters away.  It has an area of  precisely one hectare.  Both the adjoining parcels,  together with  the questioned strip, were in times past owned by Sr. Ortiz Luis, who  long ago sold the part  west of the questioned strip to Leon Buhay Matias.   The parcel thus sold had an area of 15 cavans of seeding  palay, or about 31 hectares. Its boundary on the west consists of the stream called Sapang Nabao.  A part of the eastern boundary of the same parcel is indicated by the straight line connecting the points 8 and 9 of Exhibit 1 of the defendant, the same being identical with the line connecting the points 12 and 14 of  Exhibit A of the plaintiffs, in  R. G. No. 24735.  For  the purpose of marking this boundary a hedge was planted, consisting of alibangbang, madre cacao, and anonas.

Many years ago Matias in turn sold the same  lot to Felipe Juan and Faustina Chuongco, who in 1913 caused it to be surveyed and instituted proceedings for the registration of the same pursuant to the Land Registration Act.  At  the hearing of the petition  in that proceeding Sr. Ortiz Luis appeared as a witness  for the applicants; and no trouble was experienced by them in establishing their title to the main body of the land which was the subject of the application.  However, the court found that in  surveying the parcel the applicants had  caused  the western boundary line to be run along the middle of the bed of the Sapang Nabao; and  on this point he sustained the  contention of the fiscal, who represented the  municipality, to the effect that the entire stream  should be excluded  from the lot.  An order was accordingly entered requiring the applicants to submit  an amended plan with a western boundary to be run along  the eastern side of said stream.  A surveyor was therefore called  in; and a new line was  run along the eastern bank  of  the stream in order to mark the western boundary to this  part of the parcel.   By this process the applicants lost about one hectare of land, and apparently with  a  view to recovering the loss on the other side of the parcel, they caused the surveyor to extend the plan on the east side so as to include the wedge-shaped parcel which  is now in controversy. This was done  by  establishing the eastern boundary so as to run from point 12 to point 13, as  indicated in Exhibit A. Sr. Ortiz Luis was cognizant of the  making of this survey; and he protested that the land newly inclosed in the survey on the east belonged to him, being  a part of the property which he had retained  when he sold to Matias the larger parcel lying on the west.  The questioned parcel is therefore shown in Exhibit A as "Lot A, claimed by Juan Ortiz Luis."  Notwithstanding this protest,  the  amended plan was submitted  to the court, and there being no opposition from the fiscal, said amended plan  and the accompanying description were approved by the  court in April,  1916. Thereafter the certificate was issued to the applicants in the usual form.  Sr.  Ortiz  Luis was  not  a party to the record in this proceeding, and he was given no notice of the motion asking for  the approval of the  amended plan. In this  connection we note that the notification of motion served on the fiscal contains an unsigned addendum to the effect that "Copy was  served on the provincial fiscal of Nueva  Ecija  in representation  of the  municipality  of Jaen, N. E., and upon Sr. Juan Ortiz Luis of Jaen, N. E." However, the  official certificate  of  service on the reverse side snows service on the fiscal only.  The approval of this plan by the court was of course treated as a mere formality, as there was no opposition from any source and the attention of the court was doubtless not called to the fact that the amended plan contained the strip now in question, a thing not authorized by the previous order of the court.  But, as already stated, the  certificate  of  title was issued to Felipe Juan and Faustina Chuongco, who presently sold the registered parcel for  a  valuable consideration to  Gallardo Brothers, the latter receiving the transfer certificate No. 400.

At the time Gallardo Brothers effected this  purchase Sr. Ortiz Luis was still in possession of the parcel which he  had retained when he sold the western portion of his holding to Leon Buhay Matias,  including the  questioned strip.  Moreover, Gallardo Brothers were undoubtedly informed that the property which they  were acquiring extended no further than the hedge which had been placed along the line 12-14  (Exhibit A) ; because  in  1921 they placed one Reyes in possession as their manager, informing him that the division line between their property and that of Ortiz Luis consisted of said hedge.  Accordingly, Reyes, as tenant under Gallardo Brothers, did not attempt to disturb the possession of Ortiz  Luis  during the years 1921, 1922,  and  1923.   In  the  year  1924  Gallardo  Brothers caused the  property  described in their certificate of title to be surveyed  and they  then ascertained that, according to the  calls  of their certificate and the amended plan under which  the property was registered, their occupancy should extend to the eastern boundary of the  wedge-shaped  lot now in  question.  But as  Ortiz Luis was in  possession of  this, it was  necessary to go  into court;  and therefore a civil action was instituted by  them on July 23, 1924, in the Court of First Instance  of  Nueva Ecija, against Sr. Ortiz Luis  (R.  G. No. 24735).   A few months  thereafter Sr. Ortiz Luis filed a motion in  the land registration proceeding entitled "Felipe Juan y  Faustina Chuongco, Expediente  No. 47, G. L. R. 0. Record No. 10451," asking that the certificate of title issued to Gallardo Brothers should be  cancelled and a new certificate issued from  which the questioned parcel should be excluded.

The two causes  were heard contemporaneously  in  the lower court, with the result that the  revindicatory action was decided favorably to Gallardo Brothers; and judgment was entered requiring the  defendant Ortiz Luis to surrender possession to the plaintiffs and to  pay to the plaintiffs P200, as damages during each year that should elapse after March,  1923, until  delivery of the land should be effected, and, in  the land registration proceeding, denying the petition of Sr. Ortiz Luis for the modification of the certificate of title.   From  these judgments Sr. Ortiz Luis appealed, and the causes have been heard together in this court.

From the foregoing statement it will be noted that the registration proceeding  (Expediente  No. 47),  instituted by  Felipe Juan and Faustina Chuongco, was conducted throughout without formal opposition, except  on the part of the municipality as to the bed of the estero.   Furthermore, no publication whatever was made when the official plan was amended  in such manner as  to include the questioned strip.  It is therefore obvious that the court of registration had no jurisdiction whatever over this strip.

In Philippine Manufacturing Co. vs.  Imperial  (page 122, ante), we pointed out that an order of court amending the official plan so as to inclose land not previously included therein  is a nullity unless new publication is made.  Publication,  it is there said, is one of the essential bases of the jurisdiction  of the court  in land registration and  cadastral cases, and additional territory  cannot be  included by amendment of the plan without new publication.  If Ortiz Luis had been a formal party to the  proceeding and had been given notice of the motion seeking the approval of the amended plan, the  court  would no doubt have  acquired jurisdiction over the strip in question,  as against him; but such was not the case. If results  that Felipe Juan and Faustina Chuongco  acquired no title  to  this  strip,  although  actually covered by their certificate.   Gallardo Brothers are admittedly purchasers in good  faith, so  far as the payment of value is concerned, from  Felipe Juan and  Faustina Chuongco; but it must be remembered that the  vendors had never had possession of the questioned strip; and until a new survey was made in 1924, Gallardo Brothers did not even know that the land was  included  in  their certificate.  They are therefore not in a position to make their claim to the questioned parcel effective.  The decree of  the  court  of land registration being a mere  nullity as to this strip, Gallardo Brothers  acquired  no title  thereto by virtue of transfer certificate No.  400.

The judgments appealed from will be reversed, and Ortiz  Luis,  the defendant in the civil case, will be absolved from the complaint,  while the respondents  to the  motion in the land registration proceeding will be required to surrender their certificate in order that  it may be cancelled and a new one issued from which the questioned strip shall be  excluded; but Ortiz Luis will be required to pay the expenses  incident to the procurance of a  new  certificate in Expediente  No. 47.  So ordered, without  costs.

Avanceña, C.  J., Villamor, Ostrand, Johns, Romualdez, and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.