Casting a cloud of doubt

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison () - April 5, 2005 - 12:00am
This case refers to a lot (525-A) with an area of 149 square meters inherited by several heirs who became its co-owners. The question here is whether the co-owning heirs or any of them can alienate their undivided portion in the property and what is the effect of such alienation.

The lot was titled in the name of Rosa who had five children with her husband Ruben, namely, Caring, Trining, Pining, Miling and Benny. In 1940, Rosa died intestate survived by Ruben and the five children. The property remained undivided among them even with the death of Ruben subsequently followed by Pining and Miling. When Pining died, she had three children, Chita, Lina and Leo, while Miling was survived also by three daughters, Doring, Francia and Ima. Hence, the undivided lot became co-owned by Rosa’s surviving children Caring, Trining and Benny and her grandchildren, Chita, Lina, Leo, Doring, Francia and Ima.

On July 26, 1943, Trining and her nieces Chita and Doring executed a Deed of Absolute Sale conveying to Caring "a part of lot 525-A" for P100. On the same day, Caring and again Trining, Chita and Doring executed a Deed of Absolute Sale conveying also for P100 a part of lot 525-A, to Pablo, one of the seven children of Caring. Thereafter, two of Caring’s other children, Cary and Amy built houses on the lot. Caring and her husband and another daughter Rita stayed in Cary’s house. Amy and her family stayed in the house she built occupying 32 sq. meter of the land. Later on Pablo and his family moved to Cary’s house so Cary transferred to Amy’s house.

Twenty eight years later, or on February 22, 1973, Caring executed another Deed of Absolute Sale conveying Lot 525-A to Amy for P4,500. Amy subsequently declared said lot in her name for tax purposes and paid its real estate taxes in 1977 and 1978. On the other hand, Pablo obtained a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT 67780) to the entire land in his name by executing an Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate on January 30, 1979 declaring that his mother Caring was the sole heir of her grandmother Rosa, and that he was in turn the sole heir of Caring.

In March, 1988 with the ownership of lot 525-A still under a cloud of doubt, Pablo sued his sister Amy and brother Cary before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) praying that his title be declared free of any cloud, and that Amy and Cary be ordered to vacate the portion of the land they are occupying through his tolerance and to pay him damages. Was Pablo correct?

Pablo is not correct in obtaining title to the entire lot 525-A originally owned by Rosa. There is no question that Pablo falsely stated in the Extrajudicial Settlement that Caring was the only heir of Rosa and that he, in turn was the sole heir of Caring. The said document is thus void and the TCT 67780 issued based on such void document must be cancelled.

The cancellation of TCT 67780 however does not deprive Pablo of the right to maintain an action for quieting of title, although not of the entire lot 525-A. When Rosa died intestate, said lot was inherited in co-ownership by her husband Ruben and their five children Caring, Trining, Pining, Miling and Benny at 1/6 undivided share each. After Ruben died, his 1/6 share passed to his surviving five children by representation, thus increasing their undivided shares to 1/5 each. The 1/5 undivided share of Pining who apparently predeceased her children Chita, Lina and Leo passed on to the latter. Likewise the 1/5 undivided share of Miling who predeceased his daughters Doring, Francia and Ima passed on to the latter.

Under the Deed of Sale dated July 16, 1943, Trining, Doring and Chita sold to Caring "a part of lot 525-A. Similarly on the same day Caring and again Trining, Doring and Chita sold to Pablo "a part of lot 525-A". In sum Pablo’s interest in lot 525-A covers only the undivided shares of Caring (1/5), Trining (1/5), Chita (1/3 of 1/5) and Doring (1/3 of 1/5) or approximately about 43.4 percent of the total area of 149 sq. meters which he will co-own with Benny (1/5), the other children of Pining (Lina and Leo, 2/3 of 1/5) and Miling (Francia and Ima, (2/3 of 1/5) who did not sell their shares.

The claim of Amy and Cary casts a cloud on Pablo’s interest on lot 525-A. A cloud on the title to real property or any interest therein is "any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but in truth and in fact invalid, ineffective, voidable or unenforceable and may be prejudicial to said title. The Deed of Sale dated February 22, 1971 purporting to show that Amy is the owner, while apparently valid is in fact void because at the time of its execution by Caring her mother, the latter had no more interest to sell in lot 525-A since she had already sold her interest in that property to Pablo in 1943. Thus Caring’s other children including Amy and Cary cannot claim interest over lot 525-A either by contract in case of Amy or by hereditary rights in case of Cary. Cary and Amy or the latter’s family have no right to remain in lot 525-A, much less construct improvements on that property. So TCT No. 67780 should be cancelled without prejudice to the issuance of another TCT in the name of Pablo and the other co-owners, namely Benny, Lina, Leo, Francia and Ima. Amy and Cary are ordered to remove all the improvements they constructed on the lot (Bongalon etc. vs. Court of Appeals et. al. G.R. 142441, November 10, 2004).
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E-mail: jcson@pldtdsl.net

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