SC acts quickly and then sleeps
AMADO P. MACASAET
‘It cannot happen that the Court acts quickly when it so pleases and does not move at all when doing so does not please the magistrates.’
IT did not take the Supreme Court that much time to deny for “lack of merit” the motion of the heirs of Severino Manotok to require the Court of Appeals to furnish the Manotoks a copy of the 219-page report of its findings on the land case with the heirs of Homer Barque.
The resolution was passed on May 4.
The lawyers of the Manotoks filed a second motion for reconsideration within the 15-day reglamentary period. Up to this time, the motion has not been acted upon.
In insisting that the litigants in the case are entitled to a copy of the CA report, former Supreme Court Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, counsel of the Manotoks, told the High Court there is a law that states that “upon filing of the report, the parties shall be notified by the clerk, and they shall be allowed ten days within which to signify grounds of objections to the findings of the report, if they so desire.
“Objections to the report based upon grounds which were available to the parties during the proceedings before the commissioner, other than objections to the findings and conclusions therein set forth, shall not be considered by the Court unless they were made before the commissioner.”
The decision to deny the motion for lack of merit does not seem to sit well with this provision of the law.
But the Supreme Court saw it another way.
Now, a second motion has not been acted upon and appears to be sleeping the sleep of the dead.
It cannot happen that the Court acts quickly when it so pleases and does not move at all when doing so does not please the magistrates.
The judicial reconstitution case was earlier decided in favor of the heirs of Severino Manotok by the Land Registration Commission. The LRA reversed its ruling on appeal by the heirs of Homer Barque.
The Manotoks elevated the case to the Court of Appeals which initially ruled in favor of the Manotoks. But in a joint resolution by two divisions, the CA reversed its earlier decision in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque.
The Manotoks went to the Supreme Court on Appeal. The High Court ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque and denied with finality a second motion for reconsideration.
However, retired Justice Feliciano convinced the Court to act en banc.
After brief orals, the Supreme Court decided to remand case to the Court of Appeals for investigation of facts and presumably applicable laws.
Subsequently, the CA submitted its 219-page report which the Supreme Court must now consider or resolve.
The first mistake in this case was the violation of a law that states that judicial reconstitution is an original and exclusive function of the Regional Trial Court.
It started with the Land Registration Commission which rendered a decision in favor of the heirs of Severino Manotok. The decision was reversed on appeal.
The Manotoks filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals which also sustained the Manotoks in a joint resolution by two of its divisions.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision and declared that the title(s) of the Manotoks are “sham and spurious”.
This has been the subject of an intense battle of documents between the Manotoks and the heirs of Homer Barque represented by Teresita Barque.
Apart from asking the Supreme Court to require the CA to furnish the litigants a copy of the report, the heirs of Severino Manotok are also asking the High Tribunal for a hearing on oral argument which they say “will best ensure an interactive deliberation upon the novel issues and legal implications arising from the ‘remand’ proceedings at the Court of Appeals many of which were neither pleaded nor addressed in the original administrative reconstitution proceedings that were the only subject of this case on review.”
Yet, the Supreme Court dismissed the motion to require the CA to furnish copies of its report to the litigants “for lack of merit.”
What else could have more merit than the very meat of the controversy? That is not the way the Supreme Court sees it.
The case has horrendous ramifications in reconstituting land titles in terms of facts and applicable laws.
It will be recalled that the heirs of Homer Barque moved for reconstitution of the 34-hectare prime property in Quezon City, long in possession of the heirs of Severino Manotok, only some years after the records, particularly original copies of land titles, burned in a fire hit the office of the Register of Deeds in Quezon City.
The Manotoks have submitted in evidence a copy of the deed of conveyance certified as true and correct by the National Archives.
The deed, issued by the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources on December 7, 1932, states “I, acting director of the bureau of lands, acting for and on behalf of the Government of the Philippine Islands, in consideration of TWO THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED SIXTY THREE PESOS (P2,363.00), receipt hereof is acknowledged, do hereby grant and convey to Severino Manotok, Filipino, of legal age, married to Maria Ramos … and his heirs and assigns, Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Friar Lands estate…”
The document was signed by Jose P. Dans, acting director of the bureau of lands.
How the courts accepted the claim of the heirs of Homer Barque that the title of the Manotoks is “sham and spurious” without destroying or rendering invalid the deed of conveyance is a subject of unkind speculations in many quarters, particularly those who have who have reconstitution cases pending in the Courts.
And now comes the Supreme Court denying the request of the Manotoks to have copies of the report of the Court of Appeals to which the case was remanded “for lack of merit.”
The Court has no obligation to explain its decision since right or wrong, the ruling becomes part of the law of the land. But in this case, it would benefit the Court in terms of enhancing its reputation if this case can be resolved with transparency and fairness which is always assumed of the Court but does not always happen.
There is more than meets the eye in the Manotok case in terms of its ramifications over judicial reconstitution of titles.