Ayala Land loses prime Las Piñas lot in SC ruling
Property giant Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) has lost ownership of a prime 6.8-hectare lot in Las Piñas City, which it had converted into a golf course and materials depot.
In a 30-page ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) nullified ALI’s right to possess the property as it declared petitioners Yu Hwa Ping and Mary Gaw, and the heirs of Andres Diaz and Josefa Mia, as the rightful owners of the disputed land.
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The landmark decision, penned by then SC Justice Jose Mendoza, recognized that irregularities could accompany the registration of land and must be nullified to protect the public and the Torrens system.
The high court’s Second Division voided ALI’s land titles for the property, which was located inside Ayala Southvale Subdivision, after concluding that the land surveys made to register it nearly 90 years ago were invalid.
“The court cannot close its eyes to the blatant defects on the surveys upon which the original titles of ALI were derived simply because its titles were registered,” the tribunal said in its July 26 decision, which was made public only recently.
“When a land registration decree is marred by severe irregularity that discredits the integrity of the Torrens system, the court will not think twice in striking down such illegal title in order to protect the public against unscrupulous and illicit land ownership,” it stressed.
In voiding ALI’s right to possess the land, the court reiterated that registration was “not a mode of acquiring ownership” of a property and that securing a certificate of title “merely confirms or records title already existing and vested.”
“The indefeasibility of a Torrens title should not be used as a means to perpetrate fraud against the rightful owner of real property. Good faith must concur with registration because, otherwise, registration would be an exercise in futility,” it ruled.
Ayala Corp. acquired the property from Goldenrod Inc. and Pesala in 1988.
Four years later, ALI became its new owners after its merger with Las Piñas Ventures Inc.
The controversial piece of real estate is inside Ayala Southvale in Las Pinas City, which ALI converted into the Southlinks golf course and a materials depot.
But the petitioners, who bought the land in 1993, separately questioned ALI’s ownership claims in 1995 and 1996 before the Regional Trial Courts of Pasig and Las Piñas, respectively, which eventually recognized them as lawful owners.
ALI then brought the case to the Court of Appeals, which ruled in its favor in 2006 after filing a second motion for reconsideration.
Other justices who concurred with Mendoza were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Diosdado Peralta, Marvic Leonen and Samuel Martires.