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D. Quieting of Title

An action to quiet title is a common law remedy designed for the removal of any cloud upon, or doubt, or uncertainty affecting title to real property. (James v. Eurem Realty Development Corporation, G.R. No. 190650, 14 October 2013)

An action for quieting of title is essentially a common law remedy grounded on equity. The competent court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant and other claimants, not only to place things in their proper place, to make the one who has no rights to said immovable respect and not disturb the other, but also for the benefit of both, so that he who has the right would see every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he could afterwards without fear introduce the improvements he may desire, to use, and even to abuse the property as he deems best. (Mananquil v. Moico, G.R. No. 180076, 21 November 2012)

1. Requisites

The plaintiff must have legal or equitable title to, or interest in the real property which is the subject matter of the action. He need not be in possession of said property.(Article 477, Civil Code)

The plaintiff must return to the defendant all benefits he may have received from the latter, or reimburse him for expenses that may have redounded to the plaintiff’s benefit.(Article 479, Ibid.)

a. REQUISITES

1) The plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and

2) The deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. (Heirs of Delfin v. Heirs of Bacud, G.R. No. 187633, 04 April 2016)

2. Distinctions between quieting title and removing/preventing a cloud

a. QUIETING OF TITLE

Whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein, by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title, an action may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title.(Article 476, Ibid.)

1) Requisites of a cloud on title

A cloud on a title exists when:

1) there is an instrument (deed, or contract) or record or claim or encumbrance or proceeding;

2) which is apparently valid or effective;

3) but is, in truth and in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable or extinguished (or terminated) or barred by extinctive prescription; and

(4) and may be prejudicial to the title. (Ocampo v. Ocampo, Sr., G.R. No. 227894, 05 July 2017)

b. REMOVING / PREVENTING A CLOUD

There may also be an action to quiet title or remove a cloud therefrom when the contract, instrument or other obligation has been extinguished or has terminated, or has been barred by extinctive prescription. (Article 478, Ibid.)

An action may also be brought to prevent a cloud from being cast upon title to real property or any interest therein. (Paragraph 2, Article 476, Ibid.)

3. Prescription/non-prescription of action

a. PRESCRIPTIBLE

1) When 30 years, if quieting of title only

An action to quiet title is a real action over immovables, which prescribes after thirty years. (James v. Eurem Realty Development Corporation, G.R. No. 190650, 14 October 2013)

2) When 10 years, if quieting of title with reconveyance

An action for reconveyance of a parcel of land based on implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten (10) years, the point of reference being the date of registration of the deed or the date of the issuance of the certificate of title over the property. (Ocampo v. Ocampo, Sr., G.R. No. 227894, 05 July 2017)

b. NON-PRESCRIPTIBLE

1) Annulment of title / Reconveyance, and plaintiff is in actual possession

Under the Torrens System as enshrined in P.D. No. 1529, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one (1) year from the date of entry of the decree of registration, without prejudice to an action for damages against the applicant or any person responsible for the fraud. However, actions for reconveyance based on implied trusts may be allowed beyond the one-year period… [N]otwithstanding the irrevocability of the Torrens title already issued in the name of another person, he can still be compelled under the law to reconvey the subject property to the rightful owner. The property registered is deemed to be held in trust for the real owner by the person in whose name it is registered. After all, the Torrens system was not designed to shield and protect one who had committed fraud or misrepresentation and thus holds title in bad faith. In an action for reconveyance, the decree of registration is respected as incontrovertible. What is sought instead is the transfer of the property, in this case the title thereof, which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another person’s name, to its rightful and legal owner, or to one with a better right. This is what reconveyance is all about. Yet, the right to seek reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust is not absolute nor is it imprescriptible. An action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust must perforce prescribe in ten years from the issuance of the Torrens title over the property. (Sps. Pontigon v. Heirs of Sanchez, G.R. No. 221513, 05 December 2016)

An action for reconveyance based on an implied trust generally prescribes in ten years. However, if the plaintiff remains in possession of the property, the prescriptive period to recover title of possession does not run against him. In such case, his action is deemed in the nature of a quieting of title, an action that is imprescriptible. (Ocampo v. Ocampo, Sr., G.R. No. 227894, 05 July 2017)

By way of additional exception, the Court, in a catena of cases, has permitted the filing of an action for reconveyance despite the lapse of more than ten (10) years from the issuance of title. The common denominator of these cases is that the plaintiffs therein were in actual possession of the disputed land, converting the action from reconveyance of property into one for quieting of title. Imprescriptibility is accorded to cases for quieting of title since the plaintiff has the right to wait until his possession is disturbed or his title is questioned before initiating an action to vindicate his right. (Ocampo v. Ocampo, Sr., G.R. No. 227894, 05 July 2017)

The one-year prescriptive period [under the Torrens System] does not apply when the person seeking annulment of title or reconveyance is in possession of the property.  This is because the action partakes of a suit to quiet title, which is imprescriptible. (Heirs of Delfin v. Heirs of Bacud, supra.)

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