LAW OF THE WEEK
Is registration of real property under one’s name equivalent to ownership?
No. A certificate of title which is issued to a person upon registration is merely evidence of ownership or title over the particular property. Being just a mere evidence, it cannot be used to protect a usurper from the true owner; nor can it be used as a shield for the commission of fraud and neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the expense of others. Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property subject to that title may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.
Can one still recover a lot fraudulently registered in someone else’s name?
Yes. A registered under someone else’s name but procured through fraud or falsification can be assailed in an action instituted solely for that purpose. A Torrens title can be attacked only for fraud, within one year after the date of the issuance of the decree of registration. Such an attack must be direct, and not by a collateral proceeding. The title represented by the certificate cannot be changed, altered, modified, enlarged, or diminished in a collateral proceeding.
This remedy is found in Section 32 of Presidential Decree 1529 which provides that: “The decree of registration shall not be reopened or revised by reason of absence, minority, or other disability of any person adversely affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments, subject, however, to the right of any person, including the government and the branches thereof, 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 Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and after the date of the entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein, whose rights may be prejudiced.”
What other remedies are provided by the law?
Other remedies include filing a separate proceeding or action to protect the alleged interest. If there is previously entered deed of sale the prejudiced buyer can file an action for specific performance to compel the seller to comply with the obligation in the alleged deed of sale and/or an action for reconveyance of the property. One can also file an action for rescission.