How to Reconstitute a Philippine Land Title

by | Nov 5, 2018 | Property Law, Title Issues

Most people go through reconstitution after they’ve gone to the Registry of Deeds (RD) only to be told that the registry’s copy of their land title has been destroyed.

This is a major Oh-No moment.

A cartoon green house, a bicycle and a road.

The Registry of Deeds copy of your title is important as it verifies your ownership.

Serious buyers, investors or banks will usually go to the RD to confirm the owner of a property. If the Registry cannot confirm you as the official owner, they may no longer proceed with the deal.

This is the case even if you have your owner’s title.

I go through the process of reconstitution step by step:

  • Detailed information what to expect in a reconstitution court case
  • Step by step process of a reconstitution court case (in layman’s terms, I promise!)

And – although it only applies to a limited number of cases – I also explain briefly what administrative reconstitution entails.

If instead, you are looking to replace a lost owner’s title, read this post for detailed information.

What is a Philippine Land Title?

 

When you first acquire Philippine land, the Registry of Deeds (RD) will issue you an owner’s title and will safeguard the original.

Together, these two documents confirm your ownership.

When one of the them is lost or destroyed, problems arise challenging your possession.

  • When the Registry of Deed’s copy is lost or destroyed, unscrupulous people may be able to sell your property due to the absence of the title in the RD’s. This actually happened when the Quezon City Registry of Deeds burned down in 1998. Court cases continue to this day.
  • When the Registry of Deed’s copy is destroyed, buyers, banks and other investors might no longer push through with the sale or investment.

If you are planning to sell or develop your property, you will need both documents.

You might have your owner’s copy.

This is not enough.

There are several fake land titles in the country. Serious and cautious buyers will often go to the RD with your photocopied owner’s title to verify your possession though the RD’s copy. (In fact, I recommend this for all serious buyers. It saves a lot of trouble down the road). If the RD copy cannot be found, they may back off.

As such, the need for replacing the lost RD title through the process of reconstitution is absolutely necessary.

Note: If you have lost your owner’s copy but the RD copy is intact, the process you need to go through is called Reissuance. I go through the detailed step by step process for this in this post.

Administrative Reconstitution of your Philippine Land Title

You can reconstitute your Reegistry of Deeds (RD) copy by yourself through administrative reconstitution if:

  • The RD where the land was located announces that Administrative Reconstitution is possible. This is usually when the Registry has suffered a natural catastrophe such as a fire or a flood. More than 10% of the titles have been destroyed and at least 500 titles must have been affected. We do not maintain listings for which Registry of Deeds permit administrative reconstitution as these change all the time. You’ll have to call locally to confirm.
  • If you have your owners duplicate of the certificate of title or if you can present your co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s duplicate of the certificate of title

So, just to reiterate.

You can do administrative reconstitution if you have your owners or co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s duplicate of the certificate of title AND if the Registry of Deeds where the land is located announces that Administrative Reconstitution is allowed.

If the RD doesn’t announce you can do Administrative Reconstitution or you don’t have one of the documents, then you are going to have to go through Judicial Reconstitution.

Judicial Reconstitution of your Philippine Land Title

 

Most people will have to go through Judicial Reconstitution.

Judicial Reconstitution is a court case. [Sec 110, PD 1529]

Aside from the case specifically mentioned in the Administrative Reconstitution section, there is really no way around it. There are numerous fixers and middle men but I’ve seen enough cases to be extremely wary. The clients can be taken advantage of and the “quick fix” often doesn’t actually fix the problem.

Do it the correct way and avoid the very real problems you face in shady, backroom deals. You may lose a lot of money and often, a lot of time too.

Quick Facts

Case:                   Reconstitution of Lost Owner’s Title

Timeline:            1 – 1 ½ years, depending on the court’s schedule

Cost:                    Court Fees, Registry of Deeds Fees, Lawyer’s Fees

Testimony:         At least once, or more as needed by the court

Documents:       Owner’s Duplicate Certificate of Title or other documents enumerated below, Other documents required by the court

Process

Step 1: File a petition with the Regional Trial Court where the land is located.

You and your lawyer will create a petition requesting the court to order the replacement of the Registry of Deeds copy.

Your lawyer will first need to assess evidence that you are the owner of the land. To do that, he would first ask you for any of the following documents:

  • Your owner’s duplicate certificate of title
  • Your co-owner’s, mortgagee’s or lessee’s duplicate certificate
  • Certified copy of the certificate previously issued by the RD
  • Authenticated copy of the decree of registration or patent that was the basis of the certificate of title, if the reconstitution is for the original certificate of title OR Deed of transfer or other document or an authenticated copy with the property’s description covered by the transfer certificate of title and filed at the RD, if the reconstitution if for a transfer certificate of title
  • Deed or an authenticated copy of mortgage, lease or encumbrance with the property’s description and filed at the RD
  • Any other document which is sufficient in the judgement of the court

As with any court case, you need to have strong evidence for the case to succeed.

The specific documents cited up top are documents acknowledged by the court as valid sources of reconstitution. Your lawyer will have to carefully go over your case if you can only present other proof.

When your attorney has gone over your documents, he’ll create a petition to be filed at the court.

There will be filing fees, publication fees and other document related fees such as postal or notarial fees. In addition, a land survey may have to be commissioned for LRA approval if documentary evidence isn’t strong.

Step 2: Witness Testimony

Before the witness’ testimony at court, your lawyer will have done the following:

  • Coordinated with the Official Gazette to publish a notice which must be completed 30 days before the court’s first hearing.
  • Complied with notice requirements
  • Worked with you to create a land survey, if needed
  • Appeared at court to show compliance to legal requirements
  • Complied with other orders of the court

All of the above will take some time, so the witness might be called to the court only several months after the filing of the petition.

Your lawyer will interview the witness and file a submission to the court called the “judicial affidavit” which goes through the facts the witness presented.

Fees related to the petition, the court appearance and other submissions will be paid.

Step 3: Court Decision

Unless there is opposition, your case should be headed for its conclusion. (a hopefully happy ending where your land title is reconstituted 🙂  ).

Your lawyer is busy now putting together the final submission to the court and dealing with any other legal requirements that court might have ordered.

The Court will release its decision and be prepared for a bit of a wait, as it can take months.

The court case is concluded at this point but remember that you still have to register this with the Registry of Deeds (RD) where the land is located.

Don’t skip registering the decision with the RD!

It is important as the RD will only reconstitute your title after the court’s decision has been registered with them. I’ll admit that it is a time-consuming process to register with the RD, but it is a very, very necessary one. (And yes, you will have to pay RD fees as well)

Summary

 

This post is written from your point of view – what you need to prepare, the steps you need to be aware of, and how the case will look from your point of view.

In general, it looks like this:

  • File and submit a petition
  • Present a witness at court
  • Wait for the court decision and register it at the Registry of Deeds

Your lawyer will take care of all the other requirements as he will attend all the other hearings, address extra court orders, and generally follow up and coordinate with the court on several other things.

(FYI, the process from the lawyer’s side is more complicated than what I’ve presented and there are a lot of court rules that he needs to comply with to make sure your case goes as smoothly as possible. Always hire good counsel, it’s better than a case dragging on forever or being denied).

Take care to go through the correct process.

There are several fixers and middlemen who promise shortcuts and easy fixes. The aftermath of these “easy fixes” can be court cases against you, lost money and lost time.

If you’re successful, you should be able to easily sell or have investors look at the land to maximize its potential.

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