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D. Original Registration

P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Decree, governs the original registration proceedings of unregistered land. (Wee v. Mardo, G.R. No. 202414, 04 June 2014)

1. Who may apply

a. APPLICANTS

1) Owners

The following persons may file in the proper Regional Trial Court an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.

3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under the existing laws.

4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for by law. (Section 14, P.D. 1529)

2) Co-owners

Where the land is owned in common, all the co-owners shall file the application jointly. (Paragraph 2, Section 14, Ibid.)

3) Vendor a retro

Where the land has been sold under pacto de retro, the vendor a retro may file an application for the original registration of the land, provided, however, that should the period for redemption expire during the pendency of the registration proceedings and ownership to the property consolidated in the vendee a retro, the latter shall be substituted for the applicant and may continue the proceedings. (Paragraph 3, Section 14, Ibid.)

4) Trustee on behalf a principal

A trustee on behalf of his principal may apply for original registration of any land held in trust by him, unless prohibited by the instrument creating the trust. (Paragraph 4, Section 14, Ibid.)

b. NON-RESIDENT APPLICANT

If the applicant is not a resident of the Philippines, he shall file with his application an instrument in due form appointing an agent or representative residing in the Philippines, giving his full name and postal address, and shall therein agree that the service of any legal process in the proceedings under or growing out of the application made upon his agent or representative shall be of the same legal effect as if made upon the applicant within the Philippines. (Section 16, Ibid.)

If the agent or representative dies, or leaves the Philippines, the applicant shall forthwith make another appointment for the substitute, and, if he fails to do so the court may dismiss the application. (Ibid.)

2. Registration process and requirements

a. FORM AND CONTENTS

1) In writing, signed, sworn to

The application for land registration shall be in writing, signed by the application or the person duly authorized in his behalf, and sworn to before any officer authorized to administer oaths for the province or city where the application was actually signed. (Section 15, Ibid.)

If there is more than one applicant, the application shall be signed and sworn to by and in behalf of each. The application shall contain a description of the land and shall state the citizenship and civil status of the applicant, whether single or married, and, if married, the name of the wife or husband, and, if the marriage has been legally dissolved, when and how the marriage relation terminated. (Ibid.)

It shall also state the full names and addresses of all occupants of the land and those of the adjoining owners, if known, and, if not known, it shall state the extent of the search made to find them. (Ibid.)

b. VENUE FOR FILING

The application for land registration shall be filed with the Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the land is situated. (Section 17, Ibid.)

The applicant shall file together with the application all original muniments of titles or copies thereof and a survey plan of the land approved by the Bureau of Lands. (Ibid.)

The clerk of court shall not accept any application unless it is shown that the applicant has furnished the Director of Lands with a copy of the application and all annexes. (Paragraph 2, Section 17, Ibid.)

1) Application covering two or more parcels

An application may include two or more parcels of land belonging to the applicant/s provided they are situated within the same province or city. The court may at any time order an application to be amended by striking out one or more of the parcels or by a severance of the application. (Section 18, Ibid.)

2) Amendments

Amendments to the application including joinder, substitution, or discontinuance as to parties may be allowed by the court at any stage of the proceedings upon just and reasonable terms. (Section 19, Ibid.)

a) Substantial change

Amendments which shall consist in a substantial change in the boundaries or an increase in area of the land applied for or which involve the inclusion of an additional land shall be subject to the same requirements of publication and notice as in an original application. (Paragraph 2, Section 19, Ibid.)

3) When land applied for borders on road

If the application describes the land as bounded by a public or private way or road, it shall state whether or not the applicant claims any and what portion of the land within the limits of the way or road, and whether the applicant desires to have the line of the way or road determined. (Section 20, Ibid.)

4) Requirement of additional facts and papers; ocular inspection

The court may require facts to be stated in the application in addition to those prescribed by this Decree not inconsistent therewith and may require the filing of any additional paper. It may also conduct an ocular inspection, if necessary. (Section 21, Ibid.)

5) Dealings with land pending original registration

After the filing of the application and before the issuance of the decree of registration, the land therein described may still be the subject of dealings in whole or in part, in which case the interested party shall present to the court the pertinent instruments together with a subdivision plan approved by the Director of Lands in case of transfer of portions thereof and the court, after notice to the parties, shall order such land registered subject to the conveyance or encumbrance created by said instruments, or order that the decree of registration be issued in the name of the person to whom the property has been conveyed by said instruments. (Section 22, Ibid.)

c. PUBLICATION, OPPOSITION, AND DEFAULT

1) Notice of initial hearing, publication, etc.

The court shall, within five days from filing of the application, issue an order setting the date and hour of the initial hearing which shall not be earlier than forty-five days nor later than ninety days from the date of the order. (Section 23, Ibid.)

The public shall be given notice of the initial hearing of the application for land registration by means of (1) publication; (2) mailing; and (3) posting. (Paragraph 2, Section 23, Ibid.)

2) Proof of publication and notice

The certification of the Commissioner of Land Registration and of the sheriff concerned to the effect that the notice of initial hearing, as required by law, has been complied with shall be filed in the case before the date of initial hearing, and shall be conclusive proof of such fact. (Section 24, Ibid.)

3) Opposition to application in ordinary proceedings

Any person claiming an interest, whether named in the notice or not, may appear and file an opposition on or before the date of initial hearing, or within such further time as may be allowed by the court. (Section 25, Ibid.)

The opposition shall state all the objections to the application and shall set forth the interest claimed by the party filing the same and apply for the remedy desired, and shall be signed and sworn to by him or by some other duly authorized person. (Ibid.)

If the opposition or the adverse claim of any person covers only a portion of the lot and said portion is not properly delimited on the plan attached to the application, or in case of undivided co-ownership, conflicting claims of ownership or possession, or overlapping of boundaries, the court may require the parties to submit a subdivision plan duly approved by the Director of Lands. (Paragraph 2, Section 25, Ibid.)

4) Order of default; effect

If no person appears and answers within the time allowed, the court shall, upon motion of the applicant, no reason to the contrary appearing, order a default to be recorded and require the applicant to present evidence. By the description in the notice “To all Whom It May Concern”, all the world are made parties defendant and shall be concluded by the default order. (Section 26, Ibid.)

Where an appearance has been entered and an answer filed, a default order shall be entered against persons who did not appear and answer. (Paragraph 2, Section 26, Ibid.)

d. HEARING JUDGMENT AND DECREE OF REGISTRATION

1) Speedy hearing; reference to a referee

The trial court shall see to it that all registration-proceedings are disposed or within ninety days from the date the case is submitted for decision. (Section 27, Ibid.)

The Court, if it deems necessary, may refer the case or any part thereof to a referee who shall hear the parties and their evidence, and the referee shall submit his report thereon to the Court within fifteen days after the termination of such hearing. Hearing before a referee may be held at any convenient place within the province or city as may be fixed by him and after reasonable notice thereof shall have been served the parties concerned. The court may render judgment in accordance with the report as though the facts have been found by the judge himself: Provided, however, that the court may in its discretion accept the report, or set it aside in whole or in part, or order the case to be recommitted for further proceedings. (Paragraph 2, Section 27, Ibid.)

2) Partial judgment

In a case where only a portion of the land subject of registration is contested, the court may render partial judgment provided that a subdivision plan showing the contested and uncontested portions approved by the Director of Lands is previously submitted to said court. (Section 28, Ibid.)

3) Judgment confirming title

All conflicting claims of ownership and interest in the land subject of the application shall be determined by the court. If the court, after considering the evidence and the reports of the Commissioner of Land Registration and the Director of Lands, finds that the applicant or the oppositor has sufficient title proper for registration, judgment shall be rendered confirming the title of the applicant, or the oppositor, to the land or portions thereof. (Section 29, Ibid.)

4) When judgment becomes final; duty to cause issuance of decree

The judgment rendered in a land registration proceedings becomes final upon the expiration of thirty days to be counted from the data of receipt of notice of the judgment. An appeal may be taken from the judgment of the court as in ordinary civil cases. (Section 30, Ibid.)

After judgment has become final and executory, it shall devolve upon the court to forthwith issue an order in accordance with Section 39 of this Decree to the Commissioner for the issuance of the decree of registration and the corresponding certificate of title in favor of the person adjudged entitled to registration. (Paragraph 2, Section 30, Ibid.)

5) Decree of registration

Every decree of registration issued by the Commissioner shall bear the date, hour and minute of its entry, and shall be signed by him. It shall state whether the owner is married or unmarried, and if married, the name of the husband or wife: Provided, however, that if the land adjudicated by the court is conjugal property, the decree shall be issued in the name of both spouses. If the owner is under disability, it shall state the nature of disability, and if a minor, his age. It shall contain a description of the land as finally determined by the court, and shall set forth the estate of the owner, and also, in such manner as to show their relative priorities, all particular estates, mortgages, easements, liens, attachments, and other encumbrances, including rights of tenant-farmers, if any, to which the land or owner’s estate is subject, as well as any other matters properly to be determined in pursuance of this Decree. (Section 31, Ibid.)

The decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto, subject only to such exceptions or liens as may be provided by law. It shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the National Government and all branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application or notice, the same being included in the general description “To all whom it may concern”.(Paragraph 2, Section 31, Ibid.)

6) Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value

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. Whenever the phrase “innocent purchaser for value” or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value. (Section 32, Ibid.)

Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued shall become incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other persons responsible for the fraud. (Paragraph 2, Section 32, Ibid.)

7) Appeal from judgment, etc.

The judgment and orders of the court hearing the land registration case are appealable to the Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court in the same manner as in ordinary actions. (Section 33, Ibid.)

8) Rules of procedure

The Rules of Court shall, insofar as not inconsistent with the provision of this Decree, be applicable to land registration and cadastral cases by analogy or in a suppletory character and whenever practicable and convenient. (Section 34, Ibid.)

3. Remedies

a. OPPOSITION TO APPLICATION IN ORDINARY PROCEEDINGS

Any person claiming an interest, whether named in the notice or not, may appear and file an opposition on or before the date of initial hearing, or within such further time as may be allowed by the court. (Section 25, Ibid.)

The opposition shall state all the objections to the application and shall set forth the interest claimed by the party filing the same and apply for the remedy desired, and shall be signed and sworn to by him or by some other duly authorized person. (Ibid.)

If the opposition or the adverse claim of any person covers only a portion of the lot and said portion is not properly delimited on the plan attached to the application, or in case of undivided co-ownership, conflicting claims of ownership or possession, or overlapping of boundaries, the court may require the parties to submit a subdivision plan duly approved by the Director of Lands. (Paragraph 2, Section 25, Ibid.)

b. REVIEW OF DECREE OF REGISTRATION; INNOCENT PURCHASER FOR VALUE

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 Regional Trial Court 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. (Section 32, Ibid.)

Whenever the phrase “innocent purchaser for value” or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value. (Ibid.)

Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued shall become incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other persons responsible for the fraud. (Paragraph 2, Section 32, Ibid.)

4. Cadastral registration

a. CADASTRAL SURVEY PREPARATORY TO FILING OF PETITION

When in the opinion of the President of the Philippines public interest so requires that title to any unregistered lands be settled and adjudicated, he may to this end direct and order the Director of Lands to cause to be made a cadastral survey of the lands involved and the plans and technical description thereof prepared in due form. (Section 35[a], Ibid.)

b. PETITION FOR REGISTRATION

When the lands have been surveyed or plotted, the Director of Lands, represented by the Solicitor General, shall institute original registration proceedings by filing the necessary petition in the Court of First Instance of the place where the land is situated against the holders, claimants, possessors, or occupants of such lands or any part thereof, stating in substance that public interest requires that the title to such lands be settled and adjudicated and praying that such titles be so settled and adjudicated. (Section 36, Ibid.)

c. ANSWER TO PETITION IN CADASTRAL PROCEEDINGS

Any claimant in cadastral proceedings, whether named in the notice or not, shall appear before the court by himself or by some other authorized person in his behalf, and shall file an answer on or before the date of initial hearing or within such further time as may be allowed by the court. (Section 37, Ibid.)

d. HEARING; JUDGMENT; DECREE

The trial of the case may occur at any convenient place within the province in which the lands are situated and shall be conducted, and orders for default and confessions entered, in the same manner as in ordinary land registration proceedings and shall be governed by the same rules. All conflicting interests shall be adjudicated by the court and decrees awarded in favor of the persons entitled to the lands or to parts thereof and such decrees shall be the basis for issuance of original certificates of title in favor of said persons and shall have the same effect as certificates of title granted on application for registration of land under ordinary land registration proceedings. (Section 38, Ibid.)

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