Subsequent Petition to Replace Owner’s Duplicate Certificate of Title Not Barred by Prior Dismissal by Reason of Failure to Prove Loss/Destruction
Case Title: Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCOM) v. The Register of Deeds for the Province of Benguet
Date of Promulgation: G.R. No. 222958. March 11, 2020
FACTS: PBCOM filed a petition for issuance of the owner’s duplicate copy of TCT No. 21320 in lieu of the lost one. PBCOM claimed to be the registered owner of the subject property, having acquired it through extrajudicial foreclosure sale. The property was allegedly not included in PBCOM’s inventory of assets because the bank’s La Union branch failed to forward all the pertinent records of its acquisition to the Makati head office. It allegedly exerted all possible efforts to locate the owner’s duplicate copy of TCT No. 21320, but to no avail. It then filed an affidavit of loss with the Registry of Deeds. The RTC dismissed the petition for insufficiency of evidence as it failed to prove that it had exerted all efforts to determine the actual whereabouts of TCT No. 21320 from all its available records and the bank’s past and present officers or employees and legal counsel who could and should have knowledge of the bank’s acquired property and the documents relative thereto because if any other person is known or suspected to be in possession of the copy of the title, either lawfully or unlawfully, the petition would not be the appropriate legal remedy.
Instead of filing an appeal, PBCOM filed the second (2nd) petition raffled to another RTC. The allegations in the second petition were essentially the same as that contained in the first (1st) petition. The 2nd petition was dismissed on the ground that the second petition involving the same parties and cause of action was barred by prior judgment.
ISSUE: Can PBCOM refile a new petition notwithstanding its failure in its first petition to prove the loss or destruction of its owner's duplicate certificate of title?
RULING: Yes. A registered owner who fails to prove the loss or destruction of his/her owner’s duplicate certificate of title may not be barred from refiling a new petition to replace the same.
A certificate of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible and incontrovertible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein. No voluntary transaction affecting the land will be registered (and thus bind third persons) without the presentation of the owner's duplicate certificate of title as mandated by Presidential Decree No. (P.D.) 1529 or the Property Registration Decree, particularly Sections 51-54. Without the owner's duplicate certificate of title, transfers and conveyances like sales and donations, mortgages and leases, and agencies and trusts while valid will not bind the registered land. As such, the owner's duplicate certificate of title safeguards ownership. At the same time, the owner's duplicate certificate of title is also crucial to the full and effective exercise of ownership rights overs registered land. Hence, a registered owner has a substantive right to own and possess the owner's duplicate certificate of title and to replace the same in case of loss or destruction.
PBCOM cannot be barred by res judicata [prior judgment] from filing a 2nd petition to replace its owner's duplicate certificate of title in case of loss or destruction of the original duplicate.
Although admittedly, it "is to the interest of the public that there should be an end to litigation by the same parties and their privies over a subject once fully and fairly adjudicated," it would be extremely impracticable, inconvenient, and unjust to perpetually preclude the registered owner from registering any voluntary transaction, i.e., sale, donation, mortgage, lease, etc., on his/her land simply because he/she failed to prove, to the satisfaction of the court,, the he/she, in fact, lost his/her title. If the Court were to uphold the dismissal of the 2nd petition on the ground of res judicata [prior judgment], PBCOM would be left with no other remedy under the law to exercise full ownership rights over its own property. It would be perpetually prevented from registering any voluntary transaction over the parcel of land.