138 SCRA 489
Circe S. Duran owned two (2) parcels of land (Lots 5 and 6, Block A, Psd 32780) covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 1647 of the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City which she had purchased from the Moja Estate. She left the Philippines in June 1954 and returned in May 1966. On May 13, 1963, a Deed of Sale of the two lots mentioned above was made in favor of Circe’s mother, Fe S. Duran who, on December 3, 1965, mortgaged the same property to private respondent Erlinda B. Marcelo-Tiangco.
When petitioner Circe S. Duran came to know about the mortgage made by her mother, she wrote the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City informing the latter that she had not given her mother any authority to sell or mortgage any of her properties in the Philippines. Failing to get an answer from the registrar, she returned to the Philippines. Meanwhile, when her mother, Fe S. Duran, failed to redeem the mortgage properties, foreclosure proceedings were initiated by private respondent Erlinda B. Marcelo Tiangco and, ultimately, the sale by the sheriff and the issuance of Certificate of Sale in favor of the latter.
Petitioner Circe S. Duran claims that the Deed of Sale in favor of her mother Fe S. Duran is a forgery, saying that at the time of its execution in 1963 she was in the United States. On the other hand, the adverse party alleges that the signatures of Circe S. Duran in the said Deed are genuine and, consequently, the mortgage made by Fe S. Duran in favor of private respondent is valid.
Whether Erlinda Tiangco was a buyer in good faith and for value.
Good faith, while it is always to be presumed in the absence of proof to the contrary, requires a well-founded belief that the person from whom title was received was himself the owner of the land, with the right to convey it (Santiago vs. Cruz, 19 Phil. 148). Otherwise stated, good faith is the opposite of fraud and it refers to the state of mind which is manifested by the acts of the individual concerned.
In the case at bar, private respondents, in good faith relied on the certificate of title in the name of Fe S. Duran and as aptly stated by respondent appellate court “[e]ven on the supposition that the sale was void, the general rule that the direct result of a previous illegal contract cannot be valid (on the theory that the spring cannot rise higher than its source) cannot apply here for We are confronted with the functionings of the Torrens System of Registration. The doctrine to follow is simple enough: a fraudulent or forged document of sale may become the ROOT of a valid title if the certificate of title has already been transferred from the name of the true owner to the name of the forger or the name indicated by the forger.”
Where innocent third persons relying on the correctness of the certificate of title issued, acquire rights over the property, the court cannot disregard such rights and order the total cancellation of the certificate for that would impair public confidence in the certificate of title; otherwise everyone dealing with property registered under the torrens system would have to inquire in every instance as to whether the title had been regularly or irregularly issued by the court.
Indeed, this is contrary to the evident purpose of the law. Every person dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor and the law will in no way oblige him to go behind the certificate to determine the condition of the property. Stated differently, an innocent purchaser for value relying on a torrens title issued is protected. A mortgagee has the right to rely on what appears in the certificate of title and, in the absence of anything to excite suspicion, he is under no obligation to look beyond the certificate and investigate the title of the mortgagor appearing on the face of said certificate.
*Case digest by Jhazeel Zhan Jebone, JD-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020