Torrens System: Torrens Title | Certificate Of Title | Land Registration | Things To Know
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Torrens system is an arrangement structure and set-up apparatus of, and for, land registration. When a certain parcel of land is under this classification, the same will have a Torrens Title. The latter is commonly known as the land’s Certificate of Title. This system has been adopted in order to protect real estates from unscrupulous land grabber or intruder, who may want to eventually get them from the true owners.

Torrens Title System

The Torrens Title System, aside from protecting the rights and interests of the land owner over his real estate, shall make the latter’s title conclusive against the whole world. However, such conclusiveness may still be assailed on grounds permitted by law, especially if the person places a parcel of land under the Torrens system, or secures its protection, through fraud, deceit, or other badges of bad faith or bad faith itself.

[Torrens title System is] a system for registration of land under which, upon the landowner’s application, the court may, after appropriate proceedings, direct the issuance of a certificate of title. With exceptions, this certificate is conclusive as to applicant’s estate in the land. System of registration of land title as distinguished rom registration or recording of evidence of such title The originator of he system was Sir Richard Torrens, 1814 – 1884, reformer of Australian Land Laws. [1]Black’s Law Dictionary, Henry Campbell Black, M. A., Sixth Edition, 1990, p. 1489

What is Torrens system in the Philippines?

As in any systemic archetype of land registration in the world, Torrens structural order in the Philippines is all the same. It may only have peculiar characteristics when applying the procedural laws to have the land registered. In the Philippines, registration may be Ordinary, Cadastral, or Free Patents.

In these instances, the registrant can go to courts [Land Registration Courts] or Administrative Bodies [DENR (Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources) [2]DENR, Land Management Bureau or LRA (Land Registration Authority)] authorized by law to have the proponent’s land be registered under the Torrens system of registration or land titles be issued as a result of subsequent transactions.

The outcome in these proceedings is the issuance of a Torrens Title covering that particular property. Thus:

Torrens title is the certificate of ownership establishing the rights of ownership of a certain person, whether natural or juridical, over the registered parcel of real estate. This Certificate of Ownership is also commonly called as Certificate of Title. It is the Register of Deeds/Registry of Property, a government instrumentality, that will issue the same.

And:

In the said document of title, it declares the person under whose name the property is registered as the owner of thereof, free from all liens and encumbrances, except such as may be explicitly and specifically annotated thereon or otherwise reserved and retained by law. The issuance will establish the owner’s right to the property as conclusive against the whole world. Subject to certain exceptions and direct attack, the title is guaranteed to be indefeasible, unassailable, and imprescriptible. Furthermore, once registered, it shall not be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged, or diminished, save in those direct proceeding recognized and allowed by law, as aforesaid.

Certificate of Title

As mentioned, when a certain parcel of land has been subjected to the operation of Torrens classification, a corresponding Certificate of Title or Certificate of Land Title will be issued.

In the Philippines, Certificate of [Land] Titles may be in two (2) forms:

  • Original Certificate of Title [OCT] – First Issuance
  • Transfer Certificate of Title [TCT] – Subsequent Issuance or Issuances

Therefore, a Certificate of Title is the true and exact copy of the decree of registration or the transcriptions thereof and the technical descriptions of the land contained therein. The Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) shall, likewise, sign the same.

In short, a certificate of title is the transcript of the decree of registration the Register of Deeds entered into in said document of title, duly signed by the stated administrator.

In order to validly obtain these certificates of title, we must distinguish.

Original Certificate of Title [OCT]

If the subject land will be placed for the first time in Torrens Registration, then, the proponent will have to petition the Court [Land Registration Court] or Administrative body authorized to hear such petition for registration.

The Regional Trial Courts [RTC] in the Philippines can act as a Land Registration Court [LRC] for this specific jurisdictional authority. Likewise, the Metropolitan/Municipal Trial Court [MTC] can also function as a Land Registration Court by virtue of a delegated jurisdiction emanating from the original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. Hence, when the MTC operates as a LRC by reason of that delegated authority, it is as if the judgment of the MTC is one rendered by the RTC. Thus, such decision of the MTC acting as LRC is subject to review, by way of appeal, before the Court of Appeals and not with the RTC.

Conversely:

The administrative way is coursed through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other agencies that have authority to issue public land title. The claimant can go to the DENR and apply for a patent. [3]Philstar Article, February 28, 2013 

Transfer Certificate of Title

On the other hand, issuance of Transfer Certificates of title happens when the land is conveyed, transferred, or alienated either by original owner or owners or the subsequent ones to third persons.

It may also transpire by conveyance through succession or transfer of hereditary rights to the heirs, whether voluntary, compulsory, or legal heirs.

Rights of Ownership

The Rights of Ownership or the Ownership over a particular real property is different from a Certificate of Title. The former is a real right, while the latter is a document evidencing such real right.

Thus, in order that an individual can have a certificate of title over a certain land, he must have first the real right of ownership thereto.

Real right or jus in rem is a right that is enforceable against the whole world.

Otherwise, the certificate of title cannot be validly issued without the registrant, or proponent thereof for registration, having the registrable title, in this case, the real right of ownership. 

What title of a person is registrable? | Modes of acquiring land ownership

Here are the basis for the acquisition of rights of ownership over a particular real estate so as for any individual or person possessing such rights may have the same registered under the Torrens blanket.

  • Public grant [Free Patents] – conveyance of public land by government to a private individual
  • Acquisitive prescription – open, continuous, exclusive, notorious possession of a property; 10 years [good faith possession]; 30 years [possession in bad faith], provided the land is not yet under the Torrens system
  • Accretion – alluvion; accrual of land deposit
  • Reclamation portion of the waters – land filling the parts of the waters by deliberate act and reclaiming title thereto; this is an act of the government
  • Voluntary conveyance, cession, alienation, & transfer – private grant; execution of deed of conveyance i.e. absolute deed of sale, deed of donation
  • Involuntary transfer – expropriation; even without approval from the owner of land; forcible acquisition by state
  • Succession – transfer to descent or devise; hereditary succession to the estate of deceased owner; legal heirs, compulsory heirs, voluntary heirs
  • Emancipation patent or grant – Amelioration objectives; easing the plight of tenant-farmers; non-transferable, unless by hereditary succession

Ordinary, Cadastral, and Free Patent Land Registration | Philippines

This must be understood that the real property is still and unregistered land. Meaning, the same has not yet been put in, and placed under, the Torrens System of Registration.

Ordinary Land Registration

In ordinary land registration proceedings, the private individual or person, who supposedly owns a certain parcel of land and wanted to place in the Torrens system, will be the one to initiate an action.

He may opt to file the application for registration before the court of law or an administrative body, authorized by law to grant land registration. 

In our present state of laws and as earlier noted, in case of court proceedings, the Regional Trial Court [RTC] shall have jurisdiction. When the petition is filed, the RTC will act as a Land Registration Court. It will be a proceeding in rem

Likewise, the Metropolitan Trial Court [MTC], by virtue of a delegated jurisdiction from RTC, can function as a Land Registration Court.

The registrant or proponent may as well file an application for registration with an administrative body such DENR or LRA, as the case may be.

Cadastral Land Registration

In Cadastral registration proceedings, it is the government which will initiate such process by mandating the Land Registration Administrator [Director of Lands before] to cause a cadastral survey of the lands involved and the plans and technical description thereof prepared in due form.

Under Section 35 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, [4]Full Text, Presidential Decree No. 1529 it provides in part that:

“Cadastral Survey preparatory to filing of petition.

“(a) 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.

“(b) Thereupon, the Director of Lands shall give notice to persons claiming any interest in the lands as well as to the general public, of the day on which such survey will begin, giving as fully and accurately as possible the description of the lands to be surveyed. Such notice shall be punished once in the Official Gazette, and a copy of the notice in English or the national language shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the bulletin board of the municipal building of the municipality in which the lands or any portion thereof is situated. A copy of the notice shall also be sent to the mayor of such municipality as well as to the barangay captain and likewise to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Sangguniang Bayan concerned.

“(c) The Geodetic Engineers or other employees of the Bureau of Lands in charge of the survey shall give notice reasonably in advance of the date on which the survey of any portion of such lands is to begin, which notice shall be posted in the bulletin board of the municipal building of the municipality or barrio in which the lands are situated, and shall mark the boundaries of the lands by monuments set up in proper places thereon. It shall be lawful for such Geodetic Engineers and other employees to enter upon the lands whenever necessary for the purposes of such survey or the placing of monuments.

“(d) It shall be the duty of every person claiming an interest in the lands to be surveyed, or in any parcel thereof, to communicate with the Geodetic Engineer upon his request therefor all information possessed by such person concerning the boundary lines of any lands to which he claims title or in which he claims any interest.

“(e) Any person who shall willfully obstruct the making of any survey undertaken by the Bureau of Lands or by a licensed Geodetic Engineer duly authorized to conduct the survey under this Section, or shall maliciously interfere with the placing of any monument or remove such monument, or shall destroy or remove any notice of survey posted on the land pursuant to law, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand pesos or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

Free Patent

The grants of Free Patent [registration] include both residential [5]Republic Act No. 10023 and agricultural lands. [6]Sections 44 and 45, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 9176

Residential lands

Qualifications. – Any Filipino citizen who is an actual occupant of a residential land may apply for a Free Patent Title under this Act: Provided; That in highly urbanized cities, the land should not exceed two hundred (200) square meters; in other cities, it should not exceed five hundred (500) square meters; in first class and second class municipalities, it should not exceed seven hundred fifty (750) square meters; and in all other municipalities, it should not exceed one thousand (1,000) square meters; Provided, further, That the land applied for is not needed for public service and/or public use. [7]Section 1, R. A. No. 10023

And Agricultural lands:

Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more than twenty-four hectares and who since July fourth, nineteen hundred and twenty-six or prior thereto, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition, or who shall have paid the real estate tax thereon while same has not been occupied by any person shall be entitled, under the provisions of this chapter, to have a free patent issued to him for such tract or tracts of such land not to exceed twenty-four hectares. [8]1st Paragraph, Section 44, Commonwealth Act No. 141

Additionally:

A member of the national cultural minorities who has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right granted in the preceding paragraph of this section: Provided, That at the time he files his free patent application he is not the owner of any real property secured or disposable under this provision of the Public Land Law. [9]2nd Paragraph, Section 44, Commonwealth Act No. 141  

This involves public land which the government reclassified as public “alienable” land. A public land is outside the commerce man [res nullus]. However, when such type of public lands are reclassified as public “alienable” lands, they are now within the commerce of man [res communes] and may be privately owned, therefore.  

These kind of land registration may be done either judicially or administratively. 

Administrative Land Titling | Unregistered Lands

Administrative land titling means that an individual or person, desiring to have his unregistered land be placed under the system of Torrens registration, will go to an administrative body or agency of the government for the specific purpose of applying for a land title. 

In this case, our present laws and regulations task the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR], through its Land Management Bureau [LMB], to fulfil the titling process. 

In view of the desire of the government to have a fast, speedy, and reliable process of real property registration of unregistered land, it adopted the following measure, guidelines, and procedures, to wit:

  • Adoption of the Online Public Land Application (PLA) Under the LAMS [Land Administration and Management System] Philippines [10]DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2021-07
  • Acceptance of Land Titling Application at the Barangay Level [11]DENR Administrative Order No. 2019-08
  • Verification, Approval and Data Capture of On-going or Newly Submitted Survey Plans and Public Land Applications (PLAS) Under the Land Administration Management System (LAMS) [12]DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2017-05
  • Prescribing the Guidelines for the Implementation of Public Land Titling in Partnership with Local Government Units [13]DENR Administrative Order No. 2011-06
  • Prescribing the Systematic Adjudication Process to Simplify, Streamline and Fast Track the Disposition of Public Alienable and Disposable Lands through Free and Homestead Patents [14]DENR Administrative Order No. 2007-09

Issuance of Title Involving Registered Lands | Procedure

In this situation, the land is already previously registered and under the Torrens system. This contemplates a scenario where there is subsequent conveyance and the party who obtained the property now wants to update the registration of its certificate of title. 

Procedure [15]Philstar, supra in the Land Registration Authority [LRA]

  • Step 1. Submit the conveyance instrument and all supporting documents to the entry clerk at the RD. The applicant will receive an electronic primary entry book (EPEB) number to confirm receipt of the conveyance instrument and supporting documents.
  • Step 2. Pay the corresponding fees.
  • Step 3. The documents will be turned over to the examiner who will check if all the requirements have been met, after which the information would be encoded.
  • Step 4. If the requirements are complete, the RD approves the applicant.
  • Step 5. A new land title will finally be printed and issued to the applicant.

According to the LRA, the process is swift. Necessarily, by such application, it can do away with the technicalities and rigorous process, otherwise, obtaining in the courts of law. Nonetheless, LRA shall still scrutinize the application and the truthfulness and veracity of the documents the applicant submits. 

The office also stresses that it will adapt that the first registration has the priority in right over the applied property. This does not preclude, however, other claimants from seeking redress from the courts of law, such as but not limited to, securing proper injunction to stop the registration. 

The LRA, as well, may deny the application subject to “consulta“, as provided in its rules. “Consulta” is the remedy for appealing an otherwise prejudicial decision against the registrant, which is the denial of his application for registration. 

Judicial Proceedings for Application for Land Title | Unregistered Lands

As earlier discussed, another mode of land title application, for the subject parcel of land be covered by Torrens System of Registration, is through the filing of petition in the RTC, acting as a Land Registration Court [LRC] or by delegating such authority to the MTC [also functioning as LRC].

In this regard, the law allows a person, if he has a registrable title over his real estate, to have it registered under the Torrens system by filing a petition in the aforesaid court. Thus:

Who may apply. [16]Section 14, Presidential Decree No. 1529 The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance 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.

Where the land is owned in common, all the co-owners shall file the application jointly.

In addition:

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.

Finally:

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.

References

References
1 Black’s Law Dictionary, Henry Campbell Black, M. A., Sixth Edition, 1990, p. 1489
2 DENR, Land Management Bureau
3 Philstar Article, February 28, 2013 
4 Full Text, Presidential Decree No. 1529
5 Republic Act No. 10023
6 Sections 44 and 45, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 9176
7 Section 1, R. A. No. 10023
8 1st Paragraph, Section 44, Commonwealth Act No. 141
9 2nd Paragraph, Section 44, Commonwealth Act No. 141
10 DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2021-07
11 DENR Administrative Order No. 2019-08
12 DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2017-05
13 DENR Administrative Order No. 2011-06
14 DENR Administrative Order No. 2007-09
15 Philstar, supra
16 Section 14, Presidential Decree No. 1529
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