G.R. No. L-56694 Heirs of Pedro Pinote v. Dulay, et. al. July 2, 1990

Facts:

On September 30, 1978, Francisco P. Otto, representing his mother Petra Pinote, filed in the CFI of Cebu, Branch XVI, at Lapu-Lapu City, a verified petition for reconstitution of the original certificate of title to Lot 2381 of the Opon Cadastre, which, as shown by a certified copy of the Municipal Index of Decrees, was supposedly adjudicated to Saturnino, Juana, Irineo, Pedro, and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote, under Decree No. 230607 dated May 7, 1934 in Cadastral Case No. 20, LRC Rec. No. 1004.

By an order dated November 6, 1978, the court set the case for hearing on February 22, 1979 at 8:30 A.M. A copy of the notice of hearing was ordered to be published in the Official Gazette, furnished to all the adjoining owners, and posted by the Sheriff at the main entrances of the Provincial Capitol Building, the City Hall, and the Public Market of Lapu-Lapu City, at least 30 days prior to the date of hearing. The court also ordered copies of the notice and order to be sent to the Registers of Deeds of Lapu-Lapu City and Cebu, the Director of Lands, and the Commissioner of Land Registration, directing them to show cause, if any, why the petition may not be granted.

It does not appear, however, that notices were sent to each of the registered co-owners — Saturnino, Juana, Irineo, Pedro and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote, or their heirs, so that they could have been heard on the petition.

As there was no opposition to the petition when it was called for hearing, the lower court commissioned its Clerk of Court to receive the evidence.

Based on the Commissioner’s Report, as well as the oral and documentary evidence submitted by Francisco Otto in support of his petition, the Court issued an order on June 7, 1979, directing the Register of Deeds of Lapu-Lapu City to reconstitute the original certificate of title of Lot 2381 of the Opon Cadastre, upon payment of the corresponding fees, in the names of Saturnino Pinote, married to Maria Igot, Juana, Irineo, Petra (not Pedro) and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote. The court relied on the supposed abstract of the decision of the cadastral court, the technical descriptions, plan and report of the Land Registration Commission which are not found in the records before us.

Pursuant to the court’s order, Original Certificate of Title No. RO-2355 of the Register of Deeds of Lapu-Lapu City was issued in the names of the alleged brothers and sisters, Saturnino Pinote married to Maria Igot, Juana, Irineo, Petra (not Pedro) and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote.

On October 1, 1979, Atty. Porfirio Ellescas, as alleged counsel for the heirs of Pedro, Juana and Saturnino Pinote, supposedly all deceased, filed a motion for reconsideration of the court’s order, and sought the re-opening of the proceedings and the rectification of the June 7, 1979 order, for, while Otto’s main petition for reconstitution based on the Municipal Index of Decrees, alleged that Lot 2381 was decreed in the names of Irineo, Juana, Saturnino,Pedro, and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote, the court’s order of June 7, 1979 ordered the reconstitution of the title in the names of Saturnino, Juana, Irineo, Petra (instead of Pedro) and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote. The heirs of Pedro Pinote claimed that they “learned of the error” only on September 27, 1979 through their counsel, who made the inquiry and obtained a copy of the court order.

A copy of the motion for reconsideration was received by Attorney Ramon Codilla, Otto’s counsel, on Oct. 5, 1979. The hearing of the motion was set on Nov. 14, 1979 at 8:30 A.M. with notice to Otto and Atty. Cedilla. Because of a conflict in his trial calendar, Atty. Ellescas informed the court that he would not be able to attend the hearing. Only Atty. Codilla appeared at the hearing on Nov. 14, 1979. He was ordered by the court to submit a photocopy of OCT No. RO-2355 which he complied with.

On December 2, 1979, the court issued an order denying the motion for reconsideration.

On January 2, 1980, the heirs of the late Pedro Pinote filed their notice of appeal. On January 4, 1980, they filed an urgent ex parte motion for extension of time to file record on appeal. The record on appeal was filed on January 9, 1980, and a copy was sent to the private respondent by registered mail on the same date.

On May 10, 1980, the court denied due course to the appeal on the ground of tardiness as the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration, which the court declared to be pro forma, did not suspend the finality of the court’s June 7, 1979 order.

Hence, the petition for mandamus and/or certiorari.

Issues:

  1. Whether the petitioners’ appeal is timely; and
  2. Whether the reconstitution proceedings should be reopened and the order of reconstitution dated June 7, 1979 should be rectified or amended.

Ruling:

1. Yes.

Firstly, their motion for reconsideration of the order dated June 7, 1979 was not pro forma. It invited the court’s attention to a substantial variance between the petition for reconstitution and the court’s order of reconstitution. The error adverted to in the motion for reconsideration is substantial for it affects the participation and interest of Pedro Pinote (or his heirs) in Lot No. 2381, an interest that appeared in the petition for reconstitution and in the notice of hearing issued by the court, but which disappeared from the court’s order of reconstitution dated June 7, 1979, having been replaced by “Petra Pinote” instead.

Secondly, the motion for reconsideration was timely filed. The petitioners had not been separately notified of the reconstitution proceedings except by constructive notice through the published notice of hearing. They discovered the assailed order dated June 7, 1979 on September 27, 1979, through Atty. Ellescas. They had up to October 27, 1979 to either file a motion for reconsideration or appeal. They filed a motion for reconsideration on October 1, 1979 after only four (4) days of the 30-day appeal period had elapsed, so, they had 26 days left to appeal. On December 11, 1979, they received the court’s order denying their motion for reconsideration. They filed a notice of appeal, cash appeal bond and a motion for extension of time to file a record on appeal on January 4, 1980 or 24 days later, with two (2) or more days of the appeal period to spare. Their record on appeal was actually filed on January 8, 1980, within the 10-day extension which they sought from the court. Clearly, their appeal was seasonably filed.

2. Yes, the previous orders having been issued without jurisdiction.

As the petition for reconstitution of title was a proceeding in rem, compliance with the requirements of R.A. 26 is a condition sine qua non for the conferment of jurisdiction on the court taking cognizance of the petition. Considering that both the petition and the court’s notice of hearing, referred to the reconstitution of the title of Lot 2381 in the names of the registered co-owners, Saturnino Pinote married to Maria Igot, Juana, Irineo, Pedro and Petronilo, all surnamed Pinote, the cadastral court had jurisdiction only to grant or deny the prayer of the petition as published in the notice of hearing. The court could not receive evidence proving that Petra Pinote, instead of Pedro, is a registered co-owner of Lot 2381. The reconstitution or reconstruction of a certificate of title literally and within the meaning of Republic Act No. 26 denotes restoration of the instrument which is supposed to have been lost or destroyed in its original form and condition. The purpose of the reconstitution of any document, book or record is to have the same reproduced, after observing the procedure prescribed by law, in the same form they were when the loss or destruction occurred. Hence, in Bunagan, et al.vs. CFI of Cebu, et al., where the certificate of title was decreed in the names of “Antonio Ompad and Dionisia Icong,” the reconstitution of the title in the names of “spouses Antonio Ompad and Dionisia Icong” was held to be “a material change that cannot be authorized.”

The jurisdiction of the cadastral court is hedged in by the four walls of the petition and the published notice of hearing which define the subject matter of the petition. If the court oversteps those borders, it acts without or in excess of its jurisdiction in the case.

On the basis of the allegations of the petition and the published notice of hearing, the heirs of Pedro Pinote had no reason to oppose the petition for reconstitution for the rights and interest in Lot 2381 of their ancestor, Pedro Pinote, were not adversely affected by the petition. It was only when Pedro’s name (and in effect, his interest in Lot 2381) disappeared from the court’s order of reconstitution that his heirs had cause to rise in arms as it were, and ask for the reopening of the case.

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