Inquirer Opinion / Editorial
Editorial : Greed
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: December 27, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has put his finger on what has eluded the grasp of political leaders and economic experts seeking to find the reason for the financial meltdown that sparked the global recession. “If people look only to their interest, our world will certainly fall apart,” the Pope said in his traditional Christmas Day message. The warning was part of his prayer for people to come together to address the world’s most pressing problems, from war and terrorism to poverty and violations of human rights and dignity.
In his “Message to the City and to the World,” the Pope prayed: “Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking, wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity.” But in a world that has fallen into a deepening economic recession, it is his denunciation of human greed and selfishness that carries a strong and special resonance. For greed is the root of the economic woes now afflicting most nations all over the globe.
In the United States and most of the developed world, it was greed that brought about the collapse of major financial institutions and sent thousands of individuals to bankruptcy: The institutional greed for profits that made banks and other financial institutions overlook even the most obvious risks. The personal greed of those at the helm who continued to receive astronomical salaries and allowances and scandalous perks even as their financial houses and companies crumbled. The criminal greed of so many financial advisers and brokers like Bernard Madoff who devised various investment schemes built on nothing more than promises of quick and easy profits. The reckless greed of investors who fell easy prey to scammers, of home buyers whose incomes could not support their mortgage payments, and of consumers who bought much more than what they could afford.
It is a bit different here in the Philippines, where financial institutions have not been shaken by scandals. Instead greed is in evidence almost in everything the government touches. Wherever there is a law to be enacted or enforced, wherever a permit is needed, wherever a contract is to be awarded, wherever a signature is required, wherever a project is undertaken, greed almost invariably trumps duty, honesty and public service. Greed is what keeps Congress from giving up their pork barrel. Greed is behind the biggest scandals that have rocked the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, from Jose Pidal to the fertilizer scam to the ZTE contract.
And there is no moderating greed, especially in high places, as Romulo Neri probably knows by now. The only change, in fact, is that greed has grown and spread so that now the country is ranked among the world’s most corrupt nations.
Worse, there is no relief in sight, given the ineffectiveness of the institutions and the officials that are tasked with fighting the corruption caused by unbridled greed. We will need more than prayers to exorcise this demon that is leading the nation to perdition.
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The Ponente becomes the dissenter

The ponente becomes dissenter

It was not a sudden twist of fate that Supreme Court Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago became a dissenter in the aftermath of a land title case where she was the ponente.

It was just that the Court en banc found her earlier decision so peppered with holes that it had to be reversed.

The reversal, promulgated on Dec. 18, forced Justice Santiago to stick by her guns and even improve a defense of her decision, this time as a dissenter. The Court junked her ruling 8-6.

The unkind way of looking at the reversal is that Justice Santiago and three of her colleagues in the First Division, did not know the facts and the laws applicable in the land dispute between the heirs of Severino Manotok and the heirs of Homer Barque. They felt comfortable in their decision such that two motions for reconsideration were denied by Justice Santiago.

In fact, Justice Santiago had insisted that her ruling had become final and executory. It was not to be since the en banc took over the case.

A dizzying land case

The land dispute between the heirs of Severino Manotok and the heirs of Homer Barque is dizzying.

In the first stage, the Land Registration Administration sustained the position of the Manotoks. On appeal by the heirs of Homer Barque, the LRA reversed its decision.

The Manotoks elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. Again, as in the LRA, they won the appeal.

The CA, for reasons which are very difficult to understand, reversed itself and declared that the 34-hectare disputed land in Quezon City should be titled in the name of the heirs of Homer Barque.

Naturally, the Manotoks appealed to the Supreme Court. The case landed in the First Division.

Justice Santiago ruled that the register of deeds should reconstitute the title for the Barques.

We all thought that was the end of the case although we have maintained that the lone dissent of Justice Antonio Carpio was the correct interpretation of the laws and appreciation of the facts. It turned out in the en banc that his dissent was right and the ponencia or ruling of Justice Santiago was wrong.


Associate Justice Dante Tinga, the en banc ponente, acknowledged the petition of the Manotoks “are attended by a few procedural unorthodoxies, such as, for example, the Court en banc’s move on the Special First Division’s referral to these petitions when an entry of judgment had already been made in favor of the Barques.”

“Yet,” Justice Tinga opined, “the prevailing consensus within the Court en banc was to proceed with the reevaluation of these cases pro hac vice (“for this time only”).

“There are good reasons for the Court to act in such rare manner in these cases. Most urgently, the Court had felt that the previous rulings by the First Division and the special First Division warranted either affirmation or modification by the Court acting en banc.”

This case is the only one I know where an entry of judgment had been made but the decision was reversed in the en banc.

The act of re-evaluation alone is a clear suggestion that Justice Santiago erred in affirming the findings of the LRA and Court of Appeals.

The ruling on this case maybe considered a landmark in the sense that the Supreme Court made it clear that judicial reconstitution is a sole and exclusive function of the regional trial court. Therefore, neither the LRA, the Court of Appeals nor even the Supreme Court may tinker with the law.

Justice is done when majority of the jurists overturn a division which was supposed to be final and executory.

The Torrens system

In this ponencia, Justice Tinga observed:

“The office of the Solicitor General correctly pointed out that this Court has sanctioned the recall entries of judgment. The power to suspend or even disregard rules of procedure can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself has already declared to be final.

“The militating concern for the Court en banc in accepting these cases is not so much the particular fate of the parties, but the stability of the Torrens system of registration by ensuring clarity of jurisprudence on the field.”

Of utmost significance and importance is the en banc decision that raised the question of whether or not the Court of Appeals was empowered to direct the annulment of the Manotok title through petitions…by the Barques and the Manotoks. It could not. The lesson to be learned by those who will try claiming other people’s land without proof of ownership is that the law provides that “a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified or cancelled except in direct proceeding in according with law.”

The direct proceeding referred to was the original and exclusive jurisdiction of judicial reconstitution by the Regional Trial Court.

Justice Santiago trivialized it and declared in her overturned decision that allowing the RTC to exercise jurisdiction is a waste of time since the facts had already been established by the LRA and the Court of Appeals.

The controversy

The controversy in the Manotok-Barque land dispute is whether judicial reconstitution of title may be made administratively that ignores, if not violates the law giving the RTC exclusive jurisdiction.

Justice Tinga ruled:

“Reconstitution of Torrens title is intended for non-controversial cases, or especially where the subject property is not covered by an existing title in favor of a person other than the applicant.

“Such an implication is consonant with the rule that the reconstitution proceedings are not the venue for confirmation or adjudication of title, but merely a means by which a previously adjudicated title whose original has been lost or destroyed may be re-issued to its owner.”

The problem with this case is that it seems to be both administrative and judicial. The claim of the Barques was first denied by the LRA but later sustained. The same with the Court of Appeals.

The point is it hardly matters whether the findings of facts by the LRA may be upheld. The LRA has no authority to determine facts in judicial reconstitution. Justice Santiago and the three members of the First Division never saw it that way.

Manotok case remanded to appellate court

There is justice indeed. The land-grabbing scam of the “Heirs of Homer Barque” has lost this round. It is really hard to believe that the “Heirs of Homer Barque” found titles to a property that is worth a huge amount of money bu their deceased father Homer Barque never ever mentioned about.


Manotok case remanded to appellate court

By Rey E. Requejo

The Supreme Court has remanded to the Court of Appeals for reception of further evidence the land dispute case involving the Manotok clan and heirs of Homer Barque, who both claimed ownership over the Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate situated in Quezon City, covering 342,945 square meters of prime property.

Voting 8-6, the SC en banc through Associate Justice Dante Tinga set aside the Dec. 12, 2005 decision of the Court’s First Division, which affirmed the two CA rulings both directing the QC Register of Deeds to cancel the Manotok title, while ordering Land Registration Authority (LRA) to reconstitute the Barque title.

“The Court recognizes that there is not yet any sufficient evidence for us to warrant the annulment of the Manotok title. All that the record indicates thus far is evidence not yet refuted by clear and convincing proof that the Manotoks’ claim to title is flawed. To arrive at an ultimate determination, the formal reception of evidence is in order,” the SC said in its resolution noting that the tribunal was not a trier of facts.

“The primary focus for the Court of Appeals, as an agent of this Court, in receiving and evaluating evidence should be whether the Manotoks can trace their claim of title to a valid alienation by the government of Lot no. 823 of the Piedad Estate, which was a Friar Land. On that evidence, this Court may ultimately decide whether annulment of the Manotok title is warranted…”

The SC said the CA should hear and receive evidence, conclude the proceedings and submit to the Court a report on its findings and recommended conclusions within three months from notice of the resolution.

In its ruling, the SC admitted the Court’s First Division erred in its 2005 decision, affirming the CA ruling that cancelled the land title of the Manotok clan over the prime lot, which is part of the Piedad Estate in then Caloocan town of Rizal province at the same time declaring the Barque heirs as real owners.

According to the SC, neither the LRA nor the CA has jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title over the property valued at more than P5 billion.

Under the law, the CA’s jurisdiction covers only special civil actions and actions for annulment of judgments of the regional trial court, the high court said, sustaining the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its position that the LRA had no jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title nor rule on the validity of a certificate of title.

It cited paragraph 2, Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which mandated the regional trial court the exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions involving the title or possession of real property.

Based on the provisions of the Presidential Decree 1529 or the Property Registration Decree, the LRA had no power to cancel titles, the SC noted.

“The 2005 decision accepted the findings of the LRA and the Court of Appeals that the Manotok title was spurious and accordingly sanctioned its cancellation, even though no direct attack on the title had been initiated before a trial court,” the SC said.

“That the 2005 decision erred in that regard is a necessary consequence following our earlier explanation of why the mere existence of the Manotok title necessarily barred the LRA from inquiring into the validity of that title.”

The row over the Piedad Estate came after a fire struck Quezon City Hall, destroying, among others, numerous certificates of land title at the Register of Deeds office.

Records showed that Barque title actually involved two parcels as part of Piedad Estate Lot 823, measuring 342,945 square meters, while the Manotok title referred to a parcel, but with a similar area.

The Barques filed a petition with the LRA for administrative reconstitution of the original transfer certificate of title 210177 issued in the name of Homer Barque, claiming their title was among the records destroyed by the 1988 fire.

They submitted copies of the alleged owner’s duplicate of the Barque title, real estate tax receipts, tax declarations and a plan covering the said property.

The Manotoks, led by Severino Manotok IV, filed an opposition, claiming that the lot covered by the Barque title formed part of the land covered by their reconstituted title TCT RT-22481 (372302) in the name of Severino, et al.

The LRA denied Barques’ petition but later reversed its ruling and declared that Manotoks’ title was fraudulently reconstituted.

But the LRA noted that only the regional trial court could cancel the Manotoks’ title as a Torrens title.

The LRA later denied the Manotoks motion for reconsideration as well as the motion of Barques prayer for the immediate reconstitution of their title.

This prompted the two parties to separately elevate the case before the CA through a petition for review.

During the pendency of their petitions, a certain Felicitas Manahan filed a motion for leave to intervene, claiming ownership over the subject property.

The CA Second Division issued an amended decision on Nov.7, 2003 granting Barques’ immediate reconstitution of their title being valid and genuine.

The CA Third Division, where the Manotoks’ appeal was raffled off, also upheld the right of the Barques over the Piedad Estate.

On Dec. 12, 2005, the SC’s First Division issued a decision penned by Associate Justice Consuelo-Ynares Santiago and concurred in by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., and Associate Justices Leonardo Quisumbing and Adolfo Azcuna affirming the CA ruling.

The ruling became final after it denied the motion for reconsideration of the Manotoks on June 19, 2006.

The Barques filed multiple motions with the First Division seeking the execution of the judgment, including the issuance of a writ of possession or for execution.

The Manotoks filed an urgent motion to refer motion for possession to the SC en banc and to set the issue for oral argument.

On July 26, the court en banc promulgated a resolution accepting the cases.

In ordering that the case returned to the CA, the SC admitted that it had before sanctioned the recall of entries of judgment due to compelling reason—to provide “clarity of jurisprudence on the field” in connection with the Torrens system of registration.

The SC also observed that on its review of the records, the Barques’ claim was also weak—if the property was bought from a certain Setosta, the title should have been registered under the name of Setosta.

It said the title was registered under the name of Manotok Realty, Inc., which contradicted Barques’ claim that the Manotoks had no title to the property.

“These discrepancies highlight the error of the LRA and the Court of Appeals in acknowledging the right of the Barques to seek reconstitution of their purported Barque title. Even assuming that the petition for reconstitution should not have been dismissed due to the Manotok title, it is apparent that the Barques’ claim of ownership is exceedingly weak,” the SC said.