This article written by Mr. Amado Macasaet, justifiably questions the simple fact as to why did the Heirs of Barque only claim the land (owned, occupied, and in-possession of the Manotok Family for 85 years) 9 very long years after the original certificate of title (of the Manotoks) was burned in the Quezon City Hall fire in 1988?
It is also important to note that the reason as to why they are called “Heirs of Barque” is simply because the person whom the Heirs of Barque claim to own the land is Homer Barque (Sr.) who, while he was still alive, never even set foot on the property or never even claimed that the property was his. It is only the “Heirs of Homer Barque” who say that their father owned the property of the Manotoks. But why did Mr. Homer Barque never claim it was his when he was alive? Why did Mr. Homer Barque never set foot on the property while he was alive?
It is quite obvious that the “Heirs of Homer Barque” are taking advantage of Mr. Homer Barque being dead, most likely, if he were still alive, he would never claim the Manotok property which his “Heirs” are claiming. This is an obvious scam created with some outrageous “Heirs of Barque” story. The story of the “Heirs of Barque” just does not add-up. The story simply does not make sense. This could create other stories of other “Heir of this and heirs of that”.
Sitting on one’s rights
Obviously, the law punishing a person or denying his rights for sitting on them too long does not apply in land disputes. Otherwise, the Court of Appeals would have thrown out the petition for reconstitution of the alleged title of the heirs of Homer Barque over a 34-hectare property in Quezon City.
The heirs of Homer Barque, represented by Teresita Barque Hernandez, woke up to discover their title or rights over the land, long occupied and titled in the name of the Manotok family, nine years after the original certificate of title was burned in the Quezon City Hall fire in 1988.
The presumption is the heirs of Homer Barque knew all along that they are rich, having a property with a present estimated value of more than P5 billion. Why they decided to be less than rich when they are sitting on huge wealth is a question the Supreme Court did not give too much value to.
The heirs of Barque were sitting on their rights far too long and it took a fire in the register of deeds in Quezon City for them to ask for a reconstitution of the title the duplicate of which they claimed they have.
The argument of the Manotoks that the heirs of Homer Barque never set foot on the land was also ignored by the Land Registration Authority, Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.
The tribunal ruled that the title of the Manotoks was sham and spurious.
By whose word? The Land Registration Commission which earlier supported the Manotoks but changed the decision in favor of the Barque. The thing happened in the Court of Appeals.
The RTC’s jurisdiction
None of these would have ever come to pass had the LRA, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court saw fit to comply with the inescapable necessity of a law that says that judicial reconstitution of titles is an exclusive and original function of the Regional Trial Court.
Even the Supreme Court did not find it necessary to remand the case to the RTC saying the process is time-consuming and unnecessary since the title of the Manotoks had been established to be sham and spurious.
The key question is who established these “facts”? The wrong agencies such as the land Registration Authority which was sustained by the Court of Appeals which in turn was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
The Manotoks filed a memorandum of reconsideration twice. The Supreme Court denied it twice.
Pending before the court for which orals were held on July 24 was the petition of the heirs of Homer Barque to order the register of deeds of Quezon City to transfer the titles of the Manotoks to the heirs of Barque.
I never commented on that beyond saying that the schedule for five oral arguments were postponed until the sixth was held on Tuesday, July 24.
The allegation, affirmed by the Supreme Court, that the title of the Manotoks was sham and spurious, was “established” by the Land Registration Authority which, as earlier said, had initially considered the titles as genuine.
The LRA changed its mind. That forced the Manotoks to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals. From what I can understand, the appeal automatically elevated the question to a judicial reconstitution, not administrative in the hands of the LRA.
It is here that the Court of Appeals which also initially agreed that the Manotok title was genuine might have made the mistake of ignoring a law that judicial reconstitution is an original and exclusive function of the regional trial court. In which case, the CA should have remanded the case to the RTC.
A division in the Supreme Court made the same mistake by ruling that since the titles of the Manotoks have been established as sham and spurious, there was no need to remand the case to the regional trial court as required by law. That could be time-consuming and unnecessary, according to the decision of the majority in the division headed by Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago.
RTC should establish the facts
The alleged facts relied upon by the Supreme Court in ruling in favor of heirs of Homer Barque were not judicially established although the case is one of judicial reconstitution.
In which case, according to the law, the regional trial court has exclusive and original jurisdiction.
The RTC is the venue that should have established the facts by examining documents and hearing the testimonies of witnesses, not the LRA whose administrative function is to approve or deny a petition for reconsideration.
Therefore, the case having become one of judicial reconstitution, the LRA has lost jurisdiction over the dispute.
It would have been automatically assumed by the regional trial court if the LRA had said so. But it did not. Neither did the Court of Appeals. Neither did the Supreme Court.
The SC ruled that the titles of the Manotoks are sham and spurious as established by the LRA and affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
I would have kept my peace if the conclusion that the Manotok titles are sham and spurious was established by the Regional Trial Court as required by law.
The 38-page dissent of Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio complete with four pages of bibliography contends that the jurisprudence long established by the Supreme Court was inapplicable.
Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago in ponecia declared that it is.
Whether it is or it is not, does not depart from the law that the regional trial court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case.
Which is saying that if the law had been observed, it would be easier to believe that the RTC had ruled that the jurisprudence is applicable or inapplicable.
Of course the Supreme Court can determine which jurisprudence is applicable and which is not.
But we would have had the comfort of knowing the regional trial determined which jurisprudence is applicable.
The comfort is drawn from the fact the law giving the regional trial court exclusive and original jurisdiction was not skipped. In which I personally would not mind if the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque, like it did, with finality.
It’s a case of dura lex sed lex which the LRA, the Court of Appeals completely closed their eyes to.
Manotoks, land grabbers?
After I wrote the first item on this case, a lawyer-friend called me up and told me that I got the facts all wrong. I then told him to write me a summary of what is right.
He never did. Instead, he told me that the Manotoks are the biggest land grabbers in Metro Manila. I countered that is subject to proof.
In the present case, who is the land grabber? Is it the Manotoks who have a Torrens title to the property which they have been occupying and paying taxes on since ‘1923 or the heirs of Homer Barque who woke up to discover their rights nine years after their alleged original copy of the title was lost in a fire in 1988?
They suddenly came up with a duplicate copy of the original which they wanted reconstituted.
If I were one of the heirs of Barque, I would have taken possession of the 34-hectare property long before the copy of the original title was burned. That would have given me oodles and oodles of money and saved me from the current sticky litigation.
That, to my lawyer friend, makes the Manotoks, the biggest land grabber in Metro Manila.