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High Court affirms Piedad estate ruling

[ ] February 23, 2009

THE Supreme Court has affirmed its Dec. 18, 2008 ruling restoring to the Manotok family the ownership of the 34-hectare Piedad Estate in Rizal province, as it denied the omnibus motion of the heirs of Homer Barque for lack of merit.

In a six-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Dante Tinga, the SC en banc said the factual issues raised in the omnibus motion "do not detract from the Court’s central ruling that neither the Land Registration Authority nor the CA (Court of Appeals) have jurisdiction to cancel certificates of title in an administrative reconstitution proceeding."

The center of controversy is a parcel of land situated in the barrios of Culiat, Capitol Hills, Old Balara and Ayala Heights in Quezon City.

Barque’s heirs insisted they have in possession the real certificate of title to TCT 823 and the certificate owned by the Manotoks was a "sham and spurious" document.

Respondents led by Teresita Barque-Hernandez said the SC’s Dec. 18, 2008 resolution lacked the requisite number of votes for its adoption as they cited the separate concurring opinion of Justice Antonio Carpio and Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, and the separate opinion filed by Justice Renato Corona.

Tinga’s ponencia showed a vote of 8-6, with Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justices Alicia Austria-Martinez, Presbiterio Velasco Jr., and Arturo Brion, composing the majority decision without qualification.

A "concurring" opinion, the Court said, is a "separate opinion delivered by one or more judges which agrees with the decision of the majority of the court but offering its own reason for reaching that decision."

"Indeed, the tenor of Carpio’s opinion, as well as that of Corona, reflects their agreement with the action taken by the Court," the SC said.

The tribunal also noted that Corona’s opinion reaches the same conclusions and substantially favors the same relief granted by the court, that the Dec. 12, 2005 decision of the SC’s First Division should not be affirmed as it unduly enlarged the scope of authority of the LRA in administrative reconstitution proceedings.

To dispel misgivings on whether the Dec. 18, 2008 resolution was adopted by the majority of members of the Court en banc, the SC attested that eight justices have affirmed their vote in favor of the relief in the resolution dated Jan. 18, 2008.

All justices concurred, while Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Adolfo Azcuna, Minita Chico-Nazario and Teresita Leonardo de Castro maintained their dissent. Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura took no part.

In its December 18 resolution, the high court overturned the decision of the SC First Division affirming the two rulings of the CA directing the Quezon City Register of Deeds to cancel the Manotok title, and ordering LRA to reconstitute the Barque title.

The Court also effectively recalled the entry of judgment recorded on May 2, 2006 and remanded the 20-year-old land case to the CA for further proceedings, and to raffle the cases immediately upon receipt of the resolution.

"The Court recognizes that there is not yet any sufficient evidence for us to warrant the annulment of the Manotok title. All the record indicates thus far is evidence not yet refuted by clear and convincing proof that the Manotok’s claim to the title is flawed. To arrive at an ultimate determination, the formal reception of evidence is in order. This Court is not a trier of facts," the SC ruled.

But the Barque heirs, in their omnibus motion, said the SC’s First Division already ruled with finality in May 2006 to cancel the land title of the Manotok clan over the Piedad Estate, the value of which was pegged at P3.4 billion.

They argued that the re-opening of the land dispute case which has been ruled with finality violated the doctrine of "immutability and unalterability" of final and executory decisions, and will only result in endless litigation. – Evangeline de Vera


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