Quieting of title

Quieting of title

Dear PAO,

My parents bought on installment basis a 200 sqm parcel of land from their two neighbors who were brothers. It was agreed that a deed of sale will be executed by the vendors upon full payment of the subject lot. Our parents died and we executed a deed of extrajudicial settlement of estate where the money in one of their bank accounts was specifically adjudicated to the vendors for the full and final payment of the subject lot. One of the original owners signed the deed. However, the deed of sale covering the purchased property was not executed. Unfortunately, one of the vendors died and his heirs extrajudicially settled the entire property in their favor, resulting in its registration under their names. We filed an action for Specific Performance for the execution of the deed of sale and cancellation of the title issued in their favor. The court converted the action from Specific Performance into a Quieting of Title because the extrajudicial settlement executed by the heirs cast a cloud on our Equitable Title. The heirs allege that this is a collateral attack on their title. Is this correct?


Dear Boni,

Please be informed of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Heirs of Herminio Marquez v. Heirs of Epifania M. Hernandez (GR 236826, March 23, 2022) Ponente: Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando, where it was provided that:

“The nature of an action is determined by the material allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought by plaintiff, and the law in effect when the action was filed irrespective of whether he is entitled to all or only some of such relief.”

Accordingly, the allegations in the amended complaint of respondents readily show that the complaint was not only for specific performance, but also for quieting of title. In this regard, for an action to quiet to prosper, two indispensable requisites must concur, namely: “(1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and (2) the deed, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his[/her] title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.”

Further, the Supreme Court clarified the difference of a collateral attack or direct attack vis-à-vis the Certificate of Title or Equitable Title on this wise:

“An action is deemed an attack on a title when the object of the action or proceeding is to nullify the title, and thus challenge the judgment pursuant to which the title was decreed. The attack is direct when the object of an action or proceeding is to annul or set aside such judgment, or enjoin its enforcement. On the other hand, the attack is indirect or collateral when, in an action to obtain a different relief, an attack on the judgment is nevertheless made as an incident thereof.

“To be clear, what cannot be collaterally attacked is the certificate of title, and not the title itself. The certificate referred to is the document issued by the Register of Deeds known as the Transfer Certificate of Title or TCT. In contrast, the title referred to by law means ownership, which is represented by that document. Title as a concept of ownership should not be confused with the certificate of title evidencing such ownership. In this case, what respondents are assailing is Marquez’s claim of ownership over the subject property. In any event, placing a land under the Torrens system does not mean that ownership thereof can no longer be attacked or disputed. A certificate cannot always be considered as conclusive evidence of ownership.” (Emphasis ours)

As provided in the aforementioned jurisprudence, the nature of the action is determined by the allegations therein and not the title of the case. Although it was captioned as an action for Specific Performance, if certain material allegations point to the fact that title to the property is being questioned, then the Court could proceed to hear it and resolve the issue of ownership. This is not considered a collateral attack but rather a direct attack based on the action for Quieting of Title.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]

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