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[ GR No. L-13479, Oct 31, 1959 ]



106 Phil. 477

[ G. R. No. L-13479, October 31, 1959 ]




This is an action for reconveyance of a parcel of land located in Quezon City containing  an area of about 430 hectares.

On October  11, 1957, plaintiffs filed an  action before the Court of First Instance  of Quezon City alleging that for many years prior to March 25, 1877 and up to the present they and their ancestors have been in actual, adverse,  open, public, exclusive and continuous possession as owners of the land in litigation; that they have been cultivating the land and enjoying its fruits exclusively; that from time immemorial up to the year 1955, they have been paying the  land taxes thereon; that in 1955 defendant People's Homesite & Housing Corporation began asserting title thereto claiming that  its Transfer Certificate of Title No. 1356 embraces practically all of plaintiffs' property, while the other defendant University of the Philippines began  also asserting title thereto claiming that its Transfer of Certificate of Title  No. 9462 covers the remaining portion; that defendants are  not innocent purchasers for value, having had full notice of plaintiffs' actual possession and claim of ownership thereof; and that  the inclusion of plaintiffs'  property within the technical boundaries set out in defendants' titles was a clear mistake and that at no time had defendants' predecessors-in-interest exercised dominical rights over plaintiffs' property.

On October 31, 1957, defendant University of the Philippines filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the complaint states no cause of  action; that it is barred by the statute of limitations; that the court has no jurisdiction over the ease; and that in  the event the motion is  not granted, defendant be separated from the case and be impleaded in a  separate action.   To this motion plaintiffs filed a reply alleging that the complaint on its face alleges a valid and sufficient cause of action upon which the court could render a valid judgment.   Defendant People's Homesite & Housing Corporation, on the other hand, filed a motion for bill of particulars  to which  plaintiffs filed also a  reply.  On November 20, 1957, Leonila G. de Perucho and Jose Peñaranda filed a motion for intervention which was likewise opposed by  plaintiffs.   On  December  11, 1957, the trial court issued an order dismissing  the complaint  on the ground of lack of  cause of action and that  it is already barred  by the  statute of limitations,  leaving  unresolved the other points raised in the pleadings for being unnecessary.  From this order plaintiffs took  the present appeal.

Appellants contend that the lower  court erred  in dismissing the  complaint on the  ground of lack of sufficient cause of action for the reason that on its face said complaint alleges  sufficient facts on which a valid judgment could be rendered  against defendants.   Thus, it is claimed that the complaint  alleges the following facts: that plaintiffs are the sole heirs of Eladio Tiburcio who died intestate in 1910; that upon his death Eladio Tiburcio left to plaintiffs as his sole heirs a tract of land located in Quezon City; that said plaintiffs  have always been in actual, open, notorious and exclusive possession of the land as owners pro indiviso; that sometime in 1955 defendants began asserting title to the land claiming that the same is embraced and covered by their respective certificates of title; that defendants acquired  their respective titles  with full notice of the  actual possession and claim of ownership of plantiffs and as such they cannot be considered innocent purchasers for  value.

It appears, however, that the land in question has been placed under the operation of the Torrens  system I since 1914 when it has been originally registered in the name of defendant's predecessor-in-interest.  It further appears that sometime  in  1955  defendant People's Homesite & Housing Corporation acquired from the original owner a parcel of land embracing practically all of plaintiffs' property for which Transfer Certificate of Title No. 1356 was issued in its favor, while defendant University of the Philippines likewise acquired from the same owner  another portion  of land which embraces the remainder of  the property for which Transfer Certificate of Title No. 9462 was issued in  its favor.  It is, therefore, clear that the land in question has been registered  in  the name of defendant's  predecessor-in-interest since 1914  under  the Torrens system and that notwithstanding what they now claim that the original title lacked the essential requirements prescribed by  law for  their  validity,  they have never taken any step to nullify said title until 1957 when they instituted the present action.  In other words, they allowed a period of 43 years before they woke up to invoke what they now claim to be erroneous when the court decreed in 1914 the registration of the land in the  name of  defendants'  predecessor-in-interest.  Evidently,  this cannot be  done for under our  law and  jurisprudence, a decree of registration  can only be set aside within one year after  entry  on the  ground of  fraud  provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired the property (Section 38, Act No. 496; Apurado vs. Apurado, 26  Phil., 581; Salmon vs. Bacando, 40 Off. Gaz.,  13th Supp. 1607; Rivera vs.  Moran, 48 Phil., 836).

On the other hand, our law is  clear that upon the expiration of the one-year period within which to review the decree of registration, the decree as well as the title issued in pursuance thereof becomes incontrovertible  (Section 38, Act  No. 496.  The purpose of the law in limiting to one year  the period within  which the decree may be reviewed is to put a limit to the time within which a claimant may ask for its revocation. If after title to property is decreed an action may be instituted beyond the one-year period to set aside the decree, the object of the Torrens system which is to guarantee  the indefeasibility of the Title would be defeated (Cabanos vs. Register  of Deeds, 40 Phil., 520).

Plaintiffs likewise contend  that  since the complaint alleges that defendants acquired their respective titles with full notice of the actual possession and claim of ownership of plaintiffs with respect to the land in question, it is error to dismiss the complaint for such averment is sufficient to establish a cause ot action  against defendants.  This contention overlooks the fact that the land in question is covered by Torrens title.  Thus, it appears that defendant People's Homesite & Housing Corporation bought the  portion of the property in question  from its  predecessor-in-interest sometime in 1955 for which Transfer Certificate of Title No. 1356 was issued in  its favor.  There is nothing in the complaint to show that when it acquired the property said defendant knew of any defect in the title appearing on its face in the form of any lien or incumbrance.  The same thing is true with regard to defendant University of the Philippines.  It likewise acquire the portion of the property in question sometime in 1955 from its predecessor-in-interest for which Transfer Certificate of Title No. 9462 was issued in its  favor.  There  is  also nothing in the complaint to show that when it acquired the property it knew of  any defect in the title appearing on its face in the form of any lien or incumbrance.  Said defendants are therefore, presumed to be purchasers  for  value  and in good faith and  as such are  entitled  to  protection under the law.

The foregoing finds support in the following well-settled principle:  "A person dealing with registered land is not required to go behind the register to determine the condition of the property.  He  is only charged  with notice of the burdens on the property which are noted on the face of the register or the certificate of title.  To require him to do more is to defeat one of the primary objects of the Torrens system" (William H. Anderson vs. Garcia, 64 Phil, 306;  Castillo vs. Sian, 105  Phil., 622;  Paraiso  vs. Camon, supra, p.  187, 1959).

Assuming arguendo that plaintiffs' action for reconveyance had not yet prescribed as contended, their right however to bring the instant action may be considered barred by laches for not having taken the action seasonably after title to the property had been issued  under the Torrens system.  It appears' that the property in question was originally registered on May 3, 1914 and it was only on October 11,1957 that appellants asserted their claim thereto when they brought the present action.  In the  recent case of Domingo vs. Mayon Realty Corporation, 102 Phil., 32; 54 Off. Gaz., 4954),  September 30, 1957, this Court said: "Like Ciriaco Allingag in the previous case,  appellants herein could have raised the issue of the validity of the Certificate of  Title issued to Valle Cruz since 1928, when the foreclosure sale  in her  favor  was  confirmed. They failed to do so until 18 years afterwards, and their action  (if any) now should be held barred by their own laches  and negligence."

Appellants finally claim that the lower court erred in dismissing the complaint on the ground of res judicata by taking judicial notice of  its own records in Land Registration Case No. L-3 invoking in support of their contention the principle that a court cannot take judicial  notice of the contents of the records of  other cases even when such cases had been tried by the same court arid notwithstanding the facts that both cases may have been tried before the same judge.  While the  principle invoked is considered to be the general rule, the same is not absolute, There are exceptions to this rule.  Thus, as noted by former Chief Justice Moran:
"In some instance, courts have taken judicial notice of proceedings in other causes, because of their close connection with the matter in controversy.  Thus, in a separate civil action against the administrator of an estate arising from an appeal against the report of the committee on claims appointed in the administration proceedings of said estate, to determine whether or not the appeal was taken on time, the court took judicial notice of the record of the administration proceedings.  Courts have also taken judicial notice of previous cases to determine whether or not the case pending is a moot one or whether or not a previous ruling is applicable in the case under consideration."  (3 Moran, Comments on the Rules  of Court, 1957 ed., pp. 36-37)
Moreover, appellants' objection to the action of the trial court on this matter is merely  technical because they do not dispute the fact  that appellant  Marcelino Tiburcio, who instituted  the present case, is the same person who filed the application in Land Registration Case No. L-3 for  the registration of the  same parcel of land which application was denied by the  court.   It appears  that in that registration case the oppositors were  the  People's Homesite & Housing  Corporation, Tuason and Co., and the  Bureau of  Lands.  Although the University  of the Philippines was not an oppositor in  that case,  in effect it was  represented by its  predecessor-in-interest, Tuason and Co. from which it acquired the property.  It may therefore be said that  in the two cases there is not only identity of subject-matter but identity of parties and causes of action.  Indeed, the trial court did not err in dismissing the complaint on the ground of res  judicata.

Wherefore, the  order appealed  from is affirmed, with costs against appellants.

Paras,  C. J., Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Labrador, Reyes, J. B. L., Endencia,  Barrera,  and Gutierrez David, JJ.,  concur.