SC can quiet titles or make a mess

October 15, 2009

AMADO P. MACASAET

http://www.malaya.com.ph/09012010/columnbusi1.html

‘What the decision – my guess, not the Court’s – will create is utter confusion and leave useless and meaningless all titles to those lands. Torrens titles from which transfer certificates of titles were drawn and have been quieted by operation of law and for lack of any adverse claims will be questionable as a result of the possible ruling.’

WE have no information on how the Supreme Court will decide the long-drawn land dispute among the Manotoks, the Manahans and the heirs of Homer Barque.

We can make two guesses. One, the Court may award the 34-hectare property to the Manotoks who have proven they have all it takes to own the land or to either the Barques or the Manahans.

The other possibility, remote as I see it, is the return of the land to the state. Which means that in the judgment of the Court the documents that justified the issuance of the titles of the three claimants are all forgeries.

I am personally scared of the third possibility in the sense that it creates a jurisprudence over all friar lands sold by the state.

More than 145,000 hectares of such land were former friar lands. They are scattered in at least eight provinces.

I am not saying that Court will rule that way. I am merely making a guess.

The effects can paralyze the economy. Business operates through borrowings from banks. In most cases, the collateral offered is real property.

Because of the decision – if that indeed will be the decision as I guess – the lending bank will have to first determine whether or not the offered collateral was formerly friar land.

If it happens to be, the bank will not give the loan for a very simple sensible reason. The land might be seized by the state.

Nearly all of the lands in Laguna and Cavite were former friar lands. They could be subject to forfeiture by the state if the Supreme Court rules that the Manotok property, originally part of the Piedad Estate which was friar land, must revert back to the government.

Having said that, I believe that the Supreme Court will look deeply and dispassionately into the documents presented to the Court of Appeals by the contending parties.

I said earlier that the Barques admitted that they submitted fake documents. The Manahans, on the other hand, presented documents that cannot be verified and, logically, must be presumed spurious. They do not exist.

At this point, it may be helpful to the Court and to all owners of former friar lands to know that the Manotoks, maybe like other owners of former friar lands, have in their possession documents which have never been doubted although a division decision in the same Court awarded the Manotok property to the heirs of Homer Barque.

The first step in acquiring friar lands bought or ceded to the state is to have a certificate of sale. This cannot be issued without proof of payment although such payment may be made in installments.

The certificate of sale may be assigned to just about anybody the holder wants to assign it to.

The next step is the issuance of a deed of conveyance by the director of the bureau of lands, now the Land Management Bureau under the Land Registration Administration.

The deed shall be issued only upon full payment of the value of the land. The document must be notarized.

From what I can figure out the documents are transmitted to the register of deeds in the locality where the land is located. The register of deeds issues a Torrens title.

That makes the title unassailable. So are the original certificates of title or transfer certificates of title drawn from the Torrens title. They are unassailable only if the documents that led to the issuance of the Torrens title are beyond question. Such is the case of the Manotoks as proven by official records.

In the dispute now under deliberation by the Supreme Court, it appears that only the Manotoks have proofs that their documents are genuine as proven by the existence of copies in the files of the National Archive.

I heard that there is this argument that the deed of conveyance issued to Severino Manotok is void because it does not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture and natural resources.

If that is the case, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of deeds of conveyance that do not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture and natural resources.

They are as void as the deed of conveyance issued to Severino Manotok. Therefore, these lands must likewise revert to the state. Their owners will not surrender their land without a separate order from the Supreme Court.

Or is the jurisprudence that the Court could establish equivalent to an order to surrender the land?

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Is Manahan dead? Wife remarried

October 15, 2009

AMADO P. MACASAET

http://www.malaya.com.ph/08312010/columnbusi1.html

‘There is a proof that Rosendo is dead but the Manahans claim it was Clodualdo who died. Where is the death certificate of Clodualdo Manahan? The lawyer of the Manahans never bothered to produce it to disprove the genuineness of the death of Rosendo.’

THE Manotoks produced a document that Rosendo Manahan died on July 30, 1963.

But he and his wife Felicitas appeared in Court for the Manahans.

The Manahans claimed that it was Clodualdo, a younger brother of Rosendo, who actually died. How can the person who reported a death to the municipality mistake the identity of the deceased?

It now appears that the name Clodualdo Manahan is one among five in a tombstone.

Milagros Manahan asked a tombstone maker whether he asks for a death certificate before doing one. She was told that he does not do that. All he does is get the name. It is not his duty to verify.

Who will now verify that the bones of Clodualdo supposedly mixed with those of four others in a common tomb are his or those of Rosendo of Clodualdo? The Court of Appeals never asked. The Manahan lawyer never volunteered.

Did the Court of Appeals try to verify the genuineness of a document that after the death of Rosendo, his widow, Felicitas married again, in fact twice? One of the Manotoks told me she is of the impression that the CA did not.

Worse, the Manahan never presented to the CA a document or marriage certificate that Rosendo is married to Felicitas.

The CA may not have entertained any doubt that Rosendo is flesh and blood although there is a document showing his death. There are documents showing that his widow Felicitas married Librado Calunia.

How did it happen that Rosendo presents himself as husband of Felicitas when there is a certificate that he died of pulmonary tuberculosis?

What does Felicitas’ marriage to Librado Calunia prove? That she has two husbands?

Or is somebody standing for Rosendo who is dead as proven by his own death certificate belied by the claim that the person who died was his younger brother Clodualdo?

There is a proof that Rosendo is dead but the Manahans claim it was Clodualdo who died. Where is the death certificate of Clodualdo Manahan? The lawyer of the Manahans never bothered to produce it to disprove the genuineness of the death of Rosendo.

There is no document civil registry, in the Church or in the National Statistics Office, that Clodualdo is dead.

Neither did the lawyer of the Manahans produce the marriage certificate of Rosendo to Felicitas.

And now Rosendo is with his wife Felicitas claiming they are the real owners of a 34-hectare property long awarded to Severino Manotok whose heirs introduced improvement on the land having been in possession for longer than 70 years.

The Manotoks have contract for sale, a deed of conveyance certified as in existence by the National Archives.

They also have a Torrens title.

Given the fact that the heirs of Homer Barque, the original adverse claimants to the property, have reportedly admitted that they submitted fake documents to prove their claim and given the fact that the documents presented by the Manahans cannot be verified, it may be proper for the Supreme Court to ask the Court of Appeals to make a review of the genuine and fake documents.

It is also of extreme value to the decision-making process of the Supreme Court to ask the Court of Appeals to verify whether Rosendo Manahan is really dead as proven by a death certificate.

It is also of extreme value in the decision making process of the Supreme Court to verify whether or not Felicitas is married to Librado Calunia as proven by a marriage certificate.

Verifying the genuineness of these documents is important for the Court so that it will not to be misled into believing that Rosendo Manahan is flesh and blood but there is a certified document proving his death.

None of this, it must be stressed, is relevant to the fact that the Manahans submitted to the Court documents they cannot prove exist. But the Court must have the certainty that it is not deciding a case where a litigant does not exist because he died a long time ago.

It is worth reiterating that this case started as administrative in the Land Registration Administration. In its first decision the LRA certified or ruled that the land indeed belongs to the Manotoks as proven by the uncontested documents in their possession.

The LRA later reversed its decision saying that the title of the Manotoks is “sham and spurious.”

The Manotoks appealed to the Court of Appeals. The CA’s first decision was also in favor of the Manotoks. But a later consolidated decision by two divisions threw out the first ruling.

In word, the Manotoks initially won twice but lost twice. The third “loss” was the decision of the Supreme Court awarding the property to the heirs of Homer Barque.

The Supreme Court is now deliberating on the report of the CA to which the case was remanded after former SC Associate Justice Florentino Feleciano was granted oral arguments by the Highest Tribunal.

Hundreds of thousands of landowners who bought friar lands are now eagerly awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court that finally might put all questions on friar lands on ice.

In the end, it becomes the clear duty of the Aquino administration to clean up the Augean stables in the Land Registration Commission.

I remember the World Bank made a grant to the government precisely for this purpose. I have no knowledge how the money was spent.

I am reasonably certain, however, that disputes over land ownership continue to pile up in Court.

The Supreme Court may find wisdom in coming up with a ruling that will end all disputes. But, unfortunately, it may also have the capability to encourage more disputes.

Let us wait for the ruling.

Two claimants have no proof of ownership

October 15, 2009

AMADO P. MACASAET

http://www.malaya.com.ph/08302010/columnbusi1.html

‘In a word, the Court has documents submitted by the Manahans that cannot be verified and an admission by the Barquez that they submitted fake evidence. That leaves the Manotoks as a claimant with a valid claim – verified contract of sale deed of conveyance and a Torrens title.’

THE Manahans, represented by supposed man and wife Rosendo and Felicitas Manahan, in claiming that the family has a valid claim to the disputed 34-hectare property long occupied by the heirs of Severino Manotok, appear to have submitted to the Court of Appeals documents which do not exist.

This is obviously intended to support the admission that they do not have a title to the disputed property.

The basis of their alleged validity of claim is a deed of conveyance supposedly issued in 2000 by Ernesto Adobo, director of the Bureau of Lands. The deed does not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture and natural resources.

It is the lack of this signature that emboldened the Manahans to say that the deed of conveyance issued to Severino Manotok as early as 1923 is void. But it does exist as shown by a copy certified by the National Archives.

The Manahans told the Court of Appeals that there is a General Memorandum Order No. 1 supposedly issued by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1977 allowing the director of lands to substitute his signature for that of the secretary.

The allegation states “then secretary of agriculture and natural resources.” The Manahans did not even know that at that time the secretary was Jun Leido Jr. from Mindoro Oriental.

The lawyers of the Manahans promised to submit a copy of the Memorandum Order.

They have not done so even as the Court of Appeals has already submitted its report to the Supreme Court before the Supreme Court makes a final resolution.

The lawyers cannot submit the document. It does not exist. The deed of conveyance issued by Ernesto Adobo is void. It has no basis.

One of the Manotoks took pains to ask the Department of Agriculture for a certified copy of General Memorandum Order No. 1 She was told that the copy should be in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

So off she went to the DENR. A certain Galo Martinez showed the Manotok heir all the memorandums issued in 1977 kept in the vault. There is no such General Memorandum Order No. 1.

Martinez told her back in those days, specifically 1977, memos were never called general memorandum orders. They were called “department administrative order”, “ministry order” or department memorandum order (1977).

In an official communication addressed to Ma. Milagros V. Manotok, Galo C. Martinez Jr., chief, records management and documentation division of the DENR, declared “please be informed that this office does not have in its custody a General Memorandum Order No. 1 signed by then Minister of Environment and Natural Resources issued in 1977.”

The Manahans also submitted to the Court of Appeals a machine copy of a document showing that they had a contract of sale signed by Dean Worcester in 1913.

A certified copy of this document, supposedly on file with the National Archives, has not been produced either.

Obviously, the Manahans wanted the Court to believe that their contract of sale over the disputed property was obtained ahead of the Manotoks who had their contract signed in 1923.

But the Manotoks submitted to the Court a copy of their contract certified by the National Archives. The Manahans did not have a certified copy.

The Barquez, the other party in the dispute, admitted before the Court of Appeals that they submitted a fake document.

In a word, the Court has documents submitted by the Manahans that cannot be verified and an admission by the Barquez that they submitted fake evidence.

That leaves the Manotoks as a claimant with a valid claim – verified contract of sale deed of conveyance and a Torrens title.

Strangely, there has been no question on the genuineness of the documents submitted in evidence by the Manahans. Nobody except the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Where does the Supreme Court go from here?

The Court of Appeals submitted to the Supreme Court a 159-page report. This report shall be the basis for the High Tribunal to make a final decision.

Nobody except the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court en banc knows about the report. The Manotoks asked the High Tribunal to order the CA to furnish them with a copy.

They filed two motions. Both motions were denied.

The Manotoks also asked for oral arguments. The Supreme Court gave them the thumbs down.

In effect, the denial by the Supreme Court to order the Court of Appeals to furnish the litigants a copy each of the report amounts to a denial to due process in the sense that a ruling will be made without giving the parties the right to question in the sense that a ruling will be made without giving the parties the right to question or seek clarification on the report.

Oral arguments would have substituted for the copy of the report. But again, the Supreme Court denied request of the Manahans for the orals.
(To be continued)

Colonial official Sir Robert Torrens devised the land titling system in Australia in 1858 to resolve disputes arising from speculation.

Taken from the August 30, 2010 article written by Jarius Bondoc with the Title “Does P-Noy have to do everything?”

Does P-Noy have to do everything?
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) Updated August 30, 2010 12:00 AM

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=607425&publicationSubCategoryId=64

Colonial official Sir Robert Torrens devised the land titling system in Australia in 1858 to resolve disputes arising from speculation. The method suited property ownership in the Philippines when the Americans applied it to friar lands in the early 1900s. Still scholars and jurists deem Torrens’ system imperfect. More so since it is open to fraud, in original registration or later transactions. Trouble sparks when land registries, consisting of bound volumes kept by municipios, are lost during wars or, more often, fires. In such cases property owners’ need to have titles reconstituted. The way to do it is via the court or the Land Registration Authority. Judicial or administrative re-titling suffices in uncontroversial losses. But some cases challenge the supposedly “indefeasible” Torrens titles.

Strife followed the 1988 fire at the Quezon City Hall that gutted the Register of Deeds. Great grief befell families that have owned land in the area even before Quezon City was born. Land-grabbers saw a chance to become overnight billionaires. Hucksters brandishing titles purportedly dating to the Spanish era laid claim to land that Malacañang had bestowed to the University of the Philippines. It was only settled since records existed that the property was part of friar lands seized during the American rule and sold to citizens before World War II.

One of the titles burned in the 1988 fire was to a 34-hectare segment of a friar land called Piedad Estate. It had been in uncontested possession of the family of Severino Manotok since the 1920s. The property is located in Old Balara, behind what is now Ayala Heights. The Manotoks were able to reconstitute the title three years after the blaze. Seven years later realtor Teresita Barque asked the LRA to reissue the title to a piece of land allegedly owned by her father Homer. Aside from a copy of a supposed title, she presented real estate tax receipts, tax declarations dated in the 1990s, and a subdivision plan. The LRA rejected the re-titling because the property covered by Barque’s claim was already in the Manotoks’ name. The LRA ruled that Barque’s Plan FLS 3168-D was spurious.

Barque appealed the LRA ruling, starting a string of lawsuits about the power of the LRA and the Court of Appeals to cancel land titles. The Barques admitted in CA hearings that the deed of sale that transferred the land from the government to their family was bogus. A third family intervened, claiming that papers dated 2000 made them the owners.

There was no attempt to have the Manotok title cancelled in the regional trial court. A court proceeding would have involved presenting papers, such as the chain of titles, the very thing that the Torrens system aims to replace. Averting disturbance of RP property law, the Supreme Court set aside previous rulings in 2008. It said that neither the LRA nor CA had jurisdiction to annul titles. Yet it also remanded the case to the CA instead of the RTC, thus confusing lawyers, academics and judges.

Two years after the SC returned the case to the CA and 22 years after the fire that caused it, the matter remains unsettled. Meanwhile, the LRA is struggling to computerize land registries for stability.

The weird claim of the Manahans

The weird claim of the Manahans
AMADO P. MACASAET
http://www.malaya.com.ph/08272010/columnbusi1.html

‘Why do we have a near-winner like the Barques suddenly losing interest and may be said to be willing to give their alleged rights to the land to the Manahans by sheer lack of interest to pursue a case which they had practically won but for the en banc hearing and the subsequent remand to the Court of Appeals?’

IF former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano had not succeeded in getting an en banc hearing on the Manotok vs Barque land dispute, the title of the 34-hectare property long occupied by the Manotoks would have been cancelled and a new one issued to the heirs of Homer Barque.

The Manahans were nowhere to be heard or seen while the dispute between Manotok and Barque was in a division of the Supreme Court. In the end, the division ruled in favor of the Barques. Two motions for reconsideration by the Manotoks were denied.

The decision would have become final but for the en banc hearing.

If the Manahans had a genuine interest in the land and had authentic documents to prove it, they would have asserted their rights as being superior to those of the Manotok and Barque heirs when the dispute between the two was raging.

They did not. That inaction could not be translated to anything except the fact that they were not interested in filing a claim to the land, probably because they did not have what it took to prove genuineness of documents proving ownership.

Suddenly, the Manahans represented by supposed husband and wife Rosendo and Felicitas Manahan filed an intervention after the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for determination of facts and presumably the applicable laws.

What the Manahans introduced as evidence is a deed of assignment from Valentin Manahan to Regina de Guzman Manahan, his daughter-in-law. The deed is dated June 24, 1939. Strangely, the government declared that as of the end of 1927, all the friar lands in the Piedad estate where the disputed property sits, had all been disposed of.

In one of the many hearings in the Court of Appeals, the Manahans submitted a document purported to be a certificate of sale to Valentin Manahan, dated June 23, 1913. A copy of this record is supposed to be kept in the Bureau of Lands. There is none.

Since it is a notarized document, a copy should also be on file with the National Archives. Again, there is none. There is only one copy, the copy presented to the Court of Appeals by the Manahans to prove their alleged right to the land, although it must again be stated that they did not do anything when the Manotoks almost lost the land to the heirs of Homer Barque through a decision by a division of the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, a copy of the deed of conveyance issued to Severino Manotok in 1923 by the Bureau of Lands, is on file with the National Archives and was submitted to the Court of Appeals. Its authenticity was never questioned.

However, it was disputed because the document did not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture. Mike Defensor, then secretary of environment and natural resources, issued a certification saying that the signature of the secretary was a mere formality and the lack of it does not necessarily invalidate the document.

A deed of conveyance was issued to the Manahans in the year 2000 by the director of the Bureau of Lands. The document did not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture either. But Adobo, the director of lands, issued a general circular saying that his signature can substitute for that of the secretary of agriculture.

This is highly questionable because Adodo practically usurped the powers of the secretary of agriculture. The bureau of lands is under the department.

The Court of Appeals accepted the deed of assignment and deed of conveyance on its face value. It also accepted the deed of assignment of Severino Manotok, proven genuine and authentic as it was a copy obtained and certified by the National Archives.

The other funny part of this dispute is that the battle in the case remanded by the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals, was more intense between the Manahans and the Manotoks. The heirs of Homer Barque who were almost issued a new title to the land were it not for the grant of en banc hearing did not appear as interested as the Manahans.

What do we have here? The Manahans who did not intervene in the dispute between the Manotoks and the Barques when the case was in a division of the Supreme Court filed their intervention after the case was heard en banc and was eventually remanded by the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals.

The heirs of Homer Barque, on the other hand, were not as active as the Manahans in the Court of Appeals.

Why do we have a situation where a claimant like the Manahans hardly ever moved when they almost lost their claims to the Barques?

Why do we have a near-winner like the Barques suddenly losing interest and may be said to be willing to give their alleged rights to the land to the Manahans by sheer lack of interest to pursue a case which they had practically won but for the en banc hearing and the subsequent remand to the Court of Appeals?

The dispute is supposed to be a three-cornered fight among the Manotoks, the Barques and lately the Manahans in the Court of Appeals.

I have been told that a copy of the ruling is now being routed among the justices of the Supreme Court for signature. We have no information which side the majority favors, the Manahans or the Manotoks or the Barques.

There are other weird factors in this case. For example, there is a death certificate proving Rosendo Manahan died on July 30,1963 and was,buried in the Catholic cemetery of Malolos City.

Who is Rosendo Manahan, said to be husband of Felicitas?

There is also a document – a marriage contract that states that Felicitas Bulambot married Librado Calumia when she was 15 years old and two months. The marriage was solemnized on June 26, 1958. But Rosendo Manahan died on July 30, 1963, according to a certificate of death certificate issued by the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Malolos, Bulacan. The document states that Rosendo Manahan was the son of Lucio and Hilario de Guzman.

One of the Manahans testified that it was Clodualdo, Rosendo’s younger brother who died. How can the person who sought the certificate of death substitute another name for the person who died?

That has not been explained. It only got the counsel of the Manahans furious.

None of these is relevant to whether the documents of ownership of the Manahans are genuine or spurious. But is the Court being deceived by another person who presents himself as Rosendo Manahan who died as early July 1963 and his wife Felicitas married another man in 1958?

Are all these in the report of the Court of Appeals submitted to the Supreme Court? Not even the lawyers know. The SC refused to order the CA to furnish them a copy.

Very curious.

The law and the facts on Manotok stand up

The law and the facts on Manotok stand up
AMADO P. MACASAET
http://www.malaya.com.ph/08172010/columnbusi1.html

‘How the Land Management Bureau made the conclusion that the title of the Manotoks is “spurious and fake” and how the Court, including the Supreme Court, accepted this baseless conclusions cannot escape the public suspicion that there could be unseen hands manipulating the case.’

WITHOUT saying that the adverse claimants to the property of the heirs of Severino Manotok woke up rather late to assert their rights, it is worth noting and repeating that the facts presented to the courts by the Manotoks have not been discredited as products of a fertile imagination. It is also worth noting that the earlier findings of the Land Registration Administration, the Court of Appeals and lastly the Supreme Court itself that the title of the Manotok is “sham and spurious” do not have any basis in fact.

According to the lawyers of the Manotoks, the NBI examined the sale and assignment by the Manotoks on the questioned Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate.

The NBI chemist opined that the documents “could not be as sold as it (sic) purports to be.”

At the request of the Manotoks, the Land Management Bureau (formerly bureau of lands) issued at least six certified copies of sales certificate covering the disputed land.

The request was made on Feb. 29, 2000.

Little or no attention at all is paid to the fact that LMB issued these certificates, effectively rendering useless the findings of the NBI chemist that the same documents were received in July 1999, a good seven months earlier.

Surprisingly, the dates appear to have been the basis for the LMB to make the conclusion that the documents of the Manotoks are “spurious and fake.”

It is clear that the NBI chemist’s opinion that the “Manotok” documents “could not be as sold as it (sic) purports to be” was completely disregarded by the LMB.

What is in dispute is the basis of making the conclusion that the title of the Manotoks is “spurious or fake.”

The most telling was the report of the chemist saying she found handwritten entries and signatures on the documents that were written in ballpoint pen and sign pen.

She consequently opined that these writing implements came into use only in the fifties and sixties, the LMB documents did not exist in the years from 1919 to 1923 when the Bureau of Lands issued a deed of conveyance to Severino Manotok.

The Manahans which intervened in the case as another adverse claimant must have theorized that, in the words of the lawyers of Manotok, “if those documents were only created in the 50’s and 60’s, then the Manotoks did not acquire Lot 823 in 1919-1923 as represented.”

Critical to what appears to be a design to have a circuitous and dizzying chain of events and documents is the tell-all deed of assignment issued to Severino Manotok in 1923.

This document has never been assailed. This document is the origin of a Torrens title which has not been subjected to any question either.

Plain sense would tell anyone that the resolution of the dispute should start from the date the Manotok allegedly acquired the property.

Next question should be whether or not the acquisition was contrary to law. The deed of conveyance has never been assailed by either Manahans or the heirs of Homer Barque.

How the Land Management Bureau made the conclusion that the title of the Manotoks is “spurious and fake” and how the Court, including the Supreme Court, accepted this baseless conclusions cannot escape the public suspicion that there could be unseen hands manipulating the case.

It is important to note that the genuine versions of a sale certificate and three assignment documents existed on their respective dates of execution in 1919 to 1923.

These documents were obtained from official sources other than the Land Management Bureau.

Their validity has not been questioned. Yet the LMB came up with the baseless conclusion that the title of the Manotok is “spurious and fake.”

And the courts believed it.

The case becomes even more curious because the Supreme Court refuses to furnish a copy of the report of the Court of Appeals to which the dispute was remanded for review and recommendation.

The Supreme Court also denied a motion of the Manotoks for an open oral argument over the report.

In a word, it is possible that the Supreme Court will make a ruling on the report of the CA without informing the litigants of the contents of the report.

This denial borders on denial of due process.

A very interesting case.

SC acts quickly and then sleeps

SC acts quickly and then sleeps
AMADO P. MACASAET
http://www.malaya.com.ph/08112010/columnbusi1.html

‘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.