What do you do when your land titles are lost?
In the Philippines, land titles are issued under the Torrens System. The Torrens system of registration governs the issuance of titles covering real properties in the Philippines.
These include privately owned land of whatever kind – agricultural land, commercial land, industrial land, and other real properties that can be privately owned. Condominium units are also issued titles under the same system as other real properties.
The importance of this piece of paper cannot be underscored enough. The Supreme Court, in numerous occasions, ruled that a Torrens title is the best evidence or proof of ownership of real property.
Land titles issued under the Torrens system are printed in security paper, with many security features to avoid tampering and fraud. The fact that it is printed in paper is, in itself an indication, that the document is not likely to last. As will all documents printed on paper (including money), land titles are not perpetual. Despite all efforts to keep its integrity, this very important piece of documentation is also susceptible of getting misplaced, lost, or even destroyed.
What do you do when a land title is lost, destroyed, or cannot be found? The answer lies in Section 109 of Presidential Decree No. 1529. It provides:
“Sec. 109. Notice and replacement of lost duplicate certificate. – In case of loss or theft of an owners duplicate certificate of title, due notice under oath shall be sent by the owner or by someone in his behalf to the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the land lies as soon as the loss or theft is discovered. If a duplicate certificate is lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced by a person applying for the entry of a new certificate to him or for the registration of any instrument, a sworn statement of the fact of such loss or destruction may be filed by the registered owner or other person in interest and registered.
Upon the petition of the registered owner or other person in interest, the court may, after notice and due hearing, direct the issuance of a new duplicate certificate, which shall contain a memorandum of the fact that it is issued in place of the lost duplicate certificate, but shall in all respects be entitled to like faith and credit as the original duplicate, and shall thereafter be regarded as such for all purposes of this decree.”
First, in the cited provision, the owner of the land must execute a Notice of Loss, received by the Registry of Deeds of the province, city or municipality, that has jurisdiction over the property identified by the lost title. Obviously, the land title must be actually lost, and not in possession of another, such as a buyer or a mortgagee bank.
In fact, in the case of Camitan vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128099, 20 December 2006, the Supreme Court held:
“… Thus, before a duplicate certificate of title can be replaced, the petitioner under the foregoing provision must establish that the duplicate certificate was lost or destroyed. This Court has consistently held that a trial court does not acquire jurisdiction over a petition for the issuance of a new owner’s duplicate certificate of title, if the original is in fact not lost but is in the possession of an alleged buyer. In other words, the fact of loss of the duplicate certificate is jurisdictional.”
Since the Notice of Loss must be annotated in the title itself, the concerned Registry of Deeds must have the duplicate original of the title itself on file in their records. Otherwise, a different procedure altogether must be used to secure a new Owner’s Duplicate Original of the lost title.
These, together with a Certified True Copy of the lost title itself, must be presented in a Petition filed with the Court, having jurisdiction over the property covered by the lost title.
When the petition is heard, the court will of course inquire how the title was lost, and will require the registered owner to testify and prove his or her ownership and other matters to justify the claim.
If the proceedings are successful, the court will render judgment ordering that a new Owner’s Duplicate Original of the lost, missing or destroyed title, be issued. Note that the new title that will be exactly the same as the lost document. Hence, a prayer for the issuance of the lost title in the name of another person, or for the correction of certain errors or mistakes in the lost title, cannot generally be made in the same case.