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G.R. No. 149615, August 29,2006


He who seeks equity must do equity, and he who comes into equity must come with clean hands.


Petitioner Elena Buenaventura Muller and respondent Helmut Muller were married in Hamburg,
Germany on September 22, 1989. The couple resided in Germany at a house owned by respondent’s
parents but decided to move and reside permanently in the Philippines in 1992. By this time,
respondent had inherited the house in Germany from his parents which he sold and used the proceeds
for the purchase of a parcel of land in Antipolo, Rizal at the cost of P528,000.00 and the construction of
a house amounting to P2,300,000.00. The Antipolo property was registered in the name of petitioner,
Elena Buenaventura Muller.

Due to incompatibilities and respondents alleged womanizing, drinking, and maltreatment, the spouses
eventually separated.

On September 26, 1994, respondent filed a petition for separation of properties before the Regional
Trial Court of Quezon City. The court granted said petition. It also decreed the separation of properties
between them and ordered the equal partition of personal properties located within the country,
excluding those acquired by gratuitous title during the marriage. With regard to the Antipolo property,
the court held that it was acquired using paraphernal funds of the respondent. However, it ruled that
respondent cannot recover his funds because the property was purchased in violation of Section 7,
Article XII of the Constitution.

The respondent elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the RTC. It
held that respondent merely prayed for reimbursement for the purchase of the Antipolo property, and
not acquisition or transfer of ownership to him. It ordered the respondent to REIMBURSE the petitioner
the amount of P528,000.00 for the acquisition of the land and the amount of P2,300,000.00 for the
construction of the house situated in Antipolo, Rizal.

Elena Muller then filed a petition for review on certiorari.


Whether or not respondent Helmut Muller is entitled to reimbursement.


No, respondent Helmut Muller is not entitled to reimbursement.

Ratio Decidendi:

There is an express prohibition against foreigners owning land in the Philippines.

Art. XII, Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution provides: “Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private
lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to
acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”

In the case at bar, the respondent willingly and knowingly bought the property despite a constitutional
prohibition. And to get away with that constitutional prohibition, he put the property under the name of
his Filipina wife. He tried to do indirectly what the fundamental law bars him to do directly.
With this, the Supreme Court ruled that respondent cannot seek reimbursement on the ground of
equity. It has been held that equity as a rule will follow the law and will not permit that to be done
indirectly which, because of public policy, cannot be done directly.

Legarda vs. Saleeby

G.R. No. 8936
October 2, 1915
FACTS: The plaintiffs and the defendant occupy, as owners, adjoining lots in the district of Ermita in
the city of Manila. There exists and has existed a number of years a stone wall between the said
lots. Said wall is located on the lot of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs, March 2, 1906, presented a petition
in the Court of Land Registration for the registration of their lot, which decreed that the title of the
plaintiffs should be registered and issued to them the original certificate provided for under the Torrens
system. Said registration and certificate included the wall.
Later the predecessor of the defendant presented a petition in the Court of Land Registration for the
registration of the lot now occupied by him. On March 25, 1912, the court decreed the registration of
said title and issued the original certificate provided for under the Torrens system. The description of
the lot given in the petition of the defendant also included said wall.
On December 13, 1912 the plaintiffs discovered that the wall which had been included in the certificate
granted to them had also been included in the certificate granted to the defendant .They immediately
presented a petitionin the Court of Land Registration for an adjustment and correction of the error
committed by including said wall in the registered title of each of said parties.
The lower court however, without notice to the defendant, denied said petition upon the theory that,
during the pendency of the petition for the registration of the defendant’s land, they failed to make any
objection to the registration of said lot, including the wall, in the name of the defendant.
ISSUE: Who is the owner of the wall and the land occupied by it?
HELD: The decision of the lower court is based upon the theory that the action for the registration of
the lot of the defendant was a judicial proceeding and that the judgment or decree was binding upon all
parties who did not appear and oppose it
Granting that theory to be correct one , then the same theory should be applied to the defendant
himself. Applying that theory to him, he had already lost whatever right he had therein, by permitting
the plaintiffs to have the same registered in their name, more than six years before. Having thus lost
hid right, may he be permitted to regain it by simply including it in a petition for registration?
For the difficulty involved in the present case the Act (No. 496) provides for the registration of titles
under the Torrens system affords us no remedy. There is no provision in said Act giving the parties
relief under conditions like the present. There is nothing in the Act which indicates who should be the
owner of land which has been registered in the name of two different persons.
We have decided, in case of double registration under the Land Registration Act, that the
owner of the earliest certificate is the owner of the land. May this rule be applied to successive
vendees of the owners of such certificates? Suppose that one or the other of the parties, before the
error is discovered, transfers his original certificate to an “innocent purchaser.” The general rule is that
the vendee of land has no greater right, title, or interest than his vendor; that he acquires the right
which his vendor had, only. Under that rule the vendee of the earlier certificate would be the
owner as against the vendee of the owner of the later certificate.
It would be seen to a just and equitable rule, when two persons have acquired equal rights in the same
thing, to hold that the one who acquired it first and who has complied with all the requirements of the
law should be protected.

In view of our conclusions, above stated, the judgment of the lower courtshould be and is
hereby revoked. The record is hereby returned to the court now having and exercising the jurisdiction
heretofore exercised by the land court, with direction to make such orders and decrees in the premises
as may correct the error heretofore made in including the land in the second original certificate issued
in favor of the predecessor of the appellee, as well as in all other duplicate certificates issued.

Alfredo Ching v. CA, Pedro Asedillo

 Alfredo Ching is the legitimate son of Ching Leng;
 Ching Leng bought a property from Sps. Nofuente and the former registered the property in her
name on September 18, 1961, her postal address was in Pasay City;
 Ching Leng died in Boston and his legitimate son was appointed as administrator of her estate;
 13 years after the death of Ching Leng, a suit was commenced on December 27, 1978 by private
respondent Pedro Asedillo against Ching Leng for the reconveyance of said property;
 An amended complaint was made by private respondent alleging “that on account of the fact that the
defendant has been residing abroad up to the present, and it is not known whether the defendant is
still alive or dead, he or his estate may be served by summons and other processes only by
 Summons by publication was made through “Economic Monitor”, newspaper of general circulation in
Province of Rizal, Pasay City. Since no responsive pleading was filed after the lapse of 60 days,
judgment on the merits in favor of private respondents was made.
 Consequently, the title of Ching Leng was cancelled and transferred to private respondent who sold
the same to Villa Esperanza Dev., Inc.
 Petitioner learned of the decision, and so he filed a petition to set it aside as null and void for lack of

Lower court decision:

RTC: At first, granted the verified petition to set aside as null and void the prior order of the RTC;
however, on motion by private respondent, the same was set aside. So, petitioner filed for
reconsideration but was denied.
*the case was elevated directly to SC

Issue: WON reconveyance and cancellation of title is in personam which cannot give jurisdiction to the
court by service of summons by publication.
(Note: private respondents argue that they are quasi in rem)

Ruling: Yes, reconveyance and cancellation of title are acts in personam.

Actions in personam and actions in rem differ in that the former are directed against specific persons
and seek personal judgments, while the latter are directed against the thing or property or status of a
person and seek judgments with respect thereto as against the whole world.

An action to recover a parcel of land is a real action but it is an action in personam, for it binds a
particular individual only although it concerns the right to a tangible thing.

Private respondent’s action for reconveyance and cancellation of title being in personam, the judgment
in question is null and void for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the deceased defendant Ching
Leng. Verily, the action was commenced thirteen (13) years after the latter’s death.

According to Dumlao v. Quality plastic products, the decision of the lower court insofar as the deceased
is concerned is void for lack of jurisdiction over his person. He was not, and he could not have been
validly served with summons. He had no more civil personality, that its fitness to be subject of legal
relations was lost through death.

Ching Leng is an innocent purchaser for value as shown by the evidence adduced in his behalf by
petitioner herein, tracking back the roots of his title since 1960, from the time the decree of registration
was issued.

The sole remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in
another’s name after one year from the date of the decree is not to set aside the decree but respecting
it and to bring an ordinary action in the ordinary court of justice for damages if the property has
transferred to an innocent purchaser for value.


131 SCRA 532

Subject land was 20 meters away from the shores of Laguna de Bay. It was owned by Benedicto
del Rio. After his death, it was acquired by Santos del Rio. Private oppositors sought
permission and obtained the same to construct duck houses. They violated agreement by
consructing residential houses. Santos then sought to register the land which was opposed.
The oppositors was able to obtain sales application on the land. The director of Lands alleged that
since a portion of the land is submerged in water 4 to 5 months, then it forms part of the public

According to the Law of Waters, the natural bed or basin of lakes, ponds, or pools is the covered by
their waters when at their highest ordinary depth—regular, common, natural, which occurs almost
or most of the time during the year.

Laguna de Bay is a lake and that part around it which becomes covered with water 4 to 5
months a year, not due to tidal action, but due to rains cannot be considered as part of the bed or basin
of Laguna de Bay nor as a foreshore land. Property not being so, the land is registrable.

Capitol Subdivisions vs. Province of Negros Oriental

7 SCRA 60 (1963)

FACTS: Lot 378, which is the subject matter of this case, is part of Hacienda Madalagan, registered
under the name of Agustin Amenabar and Pilar Amenabar, covered by Original Certificate of Title No.
1776 issued in the name of the aforementioned in 1916.

Sometime in 1920, the Amenabars sold the aforementioned Hacienda to Jose Benares for the purchase
price of P300,000, payable in instalments. In 1924, the Original Certificate of Title issued in the name of
the Amenabars was cancelled, and in lieu thereof, Benares obtained a Transfer Certificate of Title under
his name.

Meanwhile, in 1921, Benares mortgaged the Hacienda including Lot 378 to Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co.
And then later in 1926, he again mortgaged the Hacienda, including said Lot 378, on the Philippine
National Bank, subject to the first mortgage held by the Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co.

These transactions were duly recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds of Negros Occidental.

The mortgage in favor of the Bank was subsequently foreclosed and the Bank acquired the Hacienda,
including Lot 378, as purchaser at the foreclosure sale.

Accordingly, the TCT in the name of Benares was cancelled and another TCT was issued in the name of
the Bank.

In 1935, the Bank agreed to sell the Hacienda to the son of Jose Benares, Carlos Benares, for the sum
of P400,000, payable in annual installments, subject to the condition that the title will remain with the
Bank until full payment.

Thereafter, Carlos Benares transferred his rights, under his contract with the Bank, to plaintiff herein,
which completed the payment of the installments due to the Bank in 1949.

Hence, the Bank executed the corresponding deed of absolute sale to the plaintiff and a transfer
certificate of title covering Lot 378 was issued.

It should be noted that, despite the acquisition of the Hacienda in 1934 by the Bank, the latter did not
take possession of the property for Jose Benares claimed to be entitled to retain it under an alleged
right of lease.
For this reason, the deed of promise to sell, executed by the Bank in favour of Carlos P. Benares,
contained a caveat emptor stipulation.

When, upon the execution of the deed of absolute sale 1949, plaintiff took steps to take possession the
Hacienda and it was discovered that Lot 378 was the land occupied by the Provincial Hospital of Negros
Occidental. Immediately thereafter, plaintiff made representations with or on October 4, 1949, plaintiff
made representations with the proper officials to clarify the status of said occupation. Not being
satisfied with the explanations given by said officials, it brought the present action on June 10, 1950.

In its answer, defendant maintained that it had acquired the lot in question in the year 1924-1925
through expropriation proceedings and that it took possession of the lost and began the construction of
the provincial hospital thereon. They further claimed that for some reason beyond their comprehension,
title was never transferred in its name and it was placed in its name only for assessment purposes.

And that defendant acted in bad faith in purchasing the lot knowing that the provincial hospital was
situated there and that he did not declare such property for assessment purposes only until 1950.

ISSUE: Whether or not defendant herein had acquired the lot in question in the aforementioned
expropriation proceedings.

HELD: The Court held that defendant was not able to sufficiently prove that they have acquired the
legal title over Lot 378. Several circumstances indicate that the expropriation had not been

First, there, the entries in the docket pertaining to the expropriation case refer only to its filing and the
publication in the newspaper of the notices. Second, there was an absence of a deed of assignment and
of a TCT in favour of the Province as regards Lot 378. Third, the property was mortgaged to Bacolod-
Murcia Milling Co. Lot 378 could not have been expropriated without the intervention of the Milling Co.
And yet, the latter was not made a party in the expropriation proceedings. And fourth, a second
mortgage was constituted in favour of the Back, which would not have accepted the mortgage had Lot
378 not belonged to the mortgagor. Neither could said lot have been expropriated without the Bank’s
knowledge and participation.

Furthermore, in the deed executed by the Bank promising to sell the Hacienda Mandalagan to Carlos
Benares, it was explicitly stated that some particular lots had been expropriated by the Provincial
Government of Negros Occidental, thus indicating, by necessary implication, that Lot 378 had not been