They say the best evidence of property ownership is a Torrens title because it is both indefeasible and imprescriptible.
As an indefeasible and imprescriptible document, a land title can neither be annulled or voided nor subjected to prescription.
Hence, a good rule to follow when acquiring property would be to buy only those covered by an original certificate of title (OCT) or transfer certificate of title (TCT).
Realtor Wilfredo G. Montuerto, who is the managing broker of the Montuerto Realty Development Corp., said during a lecture on real estate appraisal that he discourages clients from buying properties covered only by tax declarations.
A tax declaration is not a guarantee of ownership and conflicts regularly arise over properties covered only by this document, said Montuerto. Some cases of conflict involve several people having tax declarations to and laying claim on a single property.
A land without a title and whose owner can only show a tax declaration as his basis for ownership is not registered under the Torrens system.
A modified Torrens system of land registration has been in effect in the Philippines since 1903. The system at the start involved judicial confirmation and recording of real estate ownership through the Court of Land Registration.
Later on, however, the task of registering deeds was turned over to a registry of deeds created in every city and province. More information about the Philippine Torrens system may be read in the Department of Justice website’s entry on the history of the Land Registration Authority (LRA).
Even if a seller of a property can present a title, Montuerto said it is important to countercheck the document presented with existing records at the registry of deeds because there are syndicates that fake land titles.
He also advised that buyers do a “trace back” of previous title records in the title copy–verify up to 2 to 3 preceding titles and see how these were cancelled or how the change of ownership occurred, whether by les pendens or a deed of absolute sale. A les pendens annotated on the back of the title means the property has a pending lawsuit or is under litigation.
If possible, Montuerto said buyers should verify up to the mother title, which is what is known as the original certificate of title (OCT).