Suppression of evidence
We claimed in an earlier item that there are curious circumstances attending the land dispute among the heirs of Severino Manotok, Homer Barque and Vicente Manahan.
We will now prove our claim. It is on record that the Manotoks continue to be given the run-around in the Land Registration Administration. In fact, the LRA openly and flagrantly violates an order of the Court of Appeals, made in open court requiring the Land Management Bureau to provide the Manotoks with copies of documents pertaining to the property in question, the LMB refused to budge.
This refusal is a direct indication of bias against the Manotoks.
However, the Manotoks were able to secure a copy of their deed of conveyance in favor of Severino Manotok from the National Archives.
Thus, the Manotoks were able to give the lie to the claim of the Manahans that they have no right to own the property in spite of 90 years of continued possession.
There are no records that either the Barques or the Manahans ever set foot on what is now a multi-billion asset consisting of 34 hectares of prime land in Quezon City.
The submission to the CA of the deed of conveyance left the claim of the Manahans worthless. Moot and academic, as lawyers love to say.
I find it funny that the CA did not make sure that the LMB comply with its own open court order. If it did, the Manotoks would not have had to go to the trouble of getting the document from the National Archives.
What does one make out of that? Just asking.
The Supreme Court erred
The lawyer of the Manotoks, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, acknowledged legal scholar and a man who commands the respect of friends and enemies, filed a partial motion for reconsideration assailing the remand of the case to the Court of Appeals.
The CA was told that the remand to the CA violates the Supreme Court’s own findings that the regional trial court has the exclusive and original jurisdiction to resolve questions related to land titles.
More important, Justice Feliciano alleged that the SC decision contradicts a provision in the Civil Code which he said states that “a possessor in the concept of an owner (as is the case of the Manotoks) has in its favor the legal presumption that he possesses legal title over the property.”
If this law had been complied with by the SC, the Manotoks cannot be required to prove their ownership of the property.
My way of saying it is the burden of proof of ownership belongs to the adverse claimant, not to the presumed owner or a possessor in the concept of an owner.
The burden of proof, in ordinary cases, is always on the complainant. Never on the respondent.
The motion for partial reconsideration was denied.
Not a vital document
The other reason Justice Feliciano filed a partial motion for reconsideration was to remind the Supreme Court that it knows only too well, or should know it that well, that the only basis for the claim of the Manahans is the Deed of Conveyance which they claimed the Manotoks did not have, but turned out it had.
The document was simply denied to the Manotoks by the LRA.
According to Justice Feliciano, the High Court has previously and repeatedly ruled that “the absence of a deed of conveyance does not render the title of purchases of friar land void.”
“In short,” he said, “the SC only needs to be guided by its previous decisions.”
Just the same the High Court denied the partial motion for reconsideration.
Under the remand ruling, the CA shall hear and receive evidence on the “Manotoks’ chain of title and ownership claim over the property.
After that is done, the CA proceeds to report its findings and recommended conclusions to the Supreme Court.
But how can they proceed to present evidence when the LRA flagrantly violates the open court order of the CA to provide the Manotoks with copies of the documents related to their alleged title?
It appears that many hurdles have been thrown in the way of the Manotoks.
Confusing, maybe wrong
What is seen as another mistake in the remand of the case to the Court of Appeals is that the Supreme Court may have assigned or proposed to itself “adjudicate final relief” on “who the proper claimant of the property is.”
Presumably the Supreme Court is to be guided by the findings and recommendations of the Court of Appeals. The CA is an inferior court. It can be reversed by the SC. In fact, whenever it feels necessary, the High Tribunal reverses itself.
In the event that the SC makes a ruling that does not sit with the findings and recommendations of the CA, what should be the High Court’s source of facts?
It should have been the regional trial court from the very start because there is a law that states that judicial reconstitution of land titles is an original and exclusive function of the RTC.
Since the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and may, theoretically, not abide by the findings of the CA, will the facts of the case be determined by the regional trial court as required by law?
After all, the RTC’s decision can be appealed to the CA and the CA’s ruling may be appealed to the Supreme Court.
I have long heard that a powerful man is interested in the Manotok land dispute. In fact, he is rumored to have started exerting pressure on the Land Registration Administration.
The circumstances attending the case, principally the refusal of the LMB to provide copies of documents to the Manotoks may be interpreted as an indication of the existence of the alleged pressure.
I have also been told that the wife of a powerful official in the Arroyo regime is brokering the sale of the land, assuming it will be taken away by the Supreme Court from the Manotoks, to another influential person who presents himself as a savior of sinners.
We have to rely on the integrity of the Supreme Court. However, it can make a fatal mistake. The mistake becomes part of the law of the land.
The mistake is always claimed to have been made in the best lights of the majority of the magistrates.
That is why the Court is right even when it is wrong. There are no two ways of looking at it.
For as long as the mistake is not deliberately made in consideration of some pieces of silver, I continue to feel at ease with the Court. But such may not always be the case.