Atty. Rami Hourani
Currently, there is only one legal avenue to be secure in your ownership of land. This is having a title to the land in your name through judicial titling.
Land is a peculiar thing in that it can be owned and used. However, unlike most other things, it cannot be held. The way we own land is different from the way we own a table or a ball-pen. We are presumed to own things in our possession. In order to own land though, you need to demonstrate title. Title can be shown many different ways. You can swear that you’ve held this land as long as possible. You can show that you’ve lived there everyday of your life. You can show the contract through which you bought the land. You can show your father’s will saying that the land is now yours. A problem arises though when someone has a similar story concerning the land you say is yours.
The law introduces a convenient way of demonstrating title to prevent this situation. This is through a Certificate of Title under the Torrens system of registration governed by PD 1529. These pieces of paper are indefeasible and imprescriptible evidence of title to a particular lot. This means that if you have one covering a plot of land, as far as the law is concerned, you are the only one who could possibly own a particular property.
There were two ways to obtain a Torrens Title over a given plot of land if it is not covered by one. The first is a Free Patent application. A very good explainer from the Foundation for Economic freedom can be found here. However, the law that authorized the DENR to accept free patent applications has lapsed and its amendment is still pending in congress. The second way, and currently the only way, is through the process of Judicial Titling where in a proceeding for the purpose you can secure title over a given parcel of land.
Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, Philippines. If you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.