Manotoks fighting two land battles

Manotoks fighting two land battles
By Neal Cruz
Last updated 00:16am (Mla time) 11/16/2007

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    Now I am ready to believe that the Batasan blast was caused by methane gas.

    Why? Because of three things:

    1. Methane is produced by rotting garbage. The Batasan is full of dirt and trash, di ba?

    2. Methane is produced by shit, and members of the Batasan are full of shit.

    3. Methane is produced in a septic tank. The Batasan is one big septic tank.

    * * *

    Congressmen can now say they earned the “cash gifts” (translation: bribes) distributed in Malacañang.

    Malacañang can say the “distribution” was worth it.

    * * *

    The Manotok family is fighting land battles on two fronts: in the case involving the Maysilo Estate in Malabon-Caloocan-Valenzuela-Quezon City; and in the case involving the Manotok-Barque in Matandang Balara, Quezon City. Being prime property, the two land areas are worth billions of pesos. The portion of Maysilo Estate being contested is 300 hectares; the Matandang Balara property, beside the Ayala Heights subdivision and the Capitol Golf Course, is 34 hectares.

    The Supreme Court has already ruled on the two cases — against the Manotoks. But the family has successfully made the tribunal reopen the cases. The final Supreme Court decision will have a big impact on the country’s Torrens titling system.

    The Manotoks have sent me two letters explaining their side on the cases after I devoted two columns on them. This is their version of the cases:

    The Maysilo Estate case — More than 300 hectares of the 1,660-hectare estate are being claimed by Jose B. Dimson, a lawyer who filed his claim several years ago. Dimson says that Original Certificate of Title (OCT) 994, the mother title of 25 percent of the property he is claiming, (the bigger portion is being claimed by the so-called Rivera heirs of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal) was issued on April 19, 1917. On the other hand, the Manotoks and Aranetas have OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917. The Supreme Court has ruled that since the Rivera title antedates that of the Manotok-Araneta title, then the earlier title is superior.

    The Land Registration Authority (LRA), however, has said the Dimson OCT is spurious, that it is non-existent and that it could have been “an elaborate scam perpetrated at the Caloocan City Register of Deeds.” The register of deeds, lawyer Yolanda Alfonso, and her deputy, Norberto Vasquez Jr., admitted during a Senate investigation that they changed the date of the Rivera title to April 19, 1917 for unexplained reasons, for which reason both of them have been charged criminally.

    Testimonies in previous court cases also established that Vidal was only 9 years old when Decree 36455 over the land was issued on Dec. 3, 1912, while her supposed grandson, Bartolome Rivera, was already 65 years old when he testified in a Pasig court in 1963. “This is a fantastic case of the grandson being older than the grandmother,” said a report of the Land Registration Commission (now the LRA) in 1981.

    Bartolome was the only surviving son of Severo Rivera, a son of Vidal who died in 1907. The mother was only 4 years old when she gave birth to Severo!

    * * *

    The other case, Manotok vs Barque, also concerns two conflicting certificates of titles to 34 hectares of prime land in Quezon City, known as the Manotok Compound. The Monotoks, who actually live on the property, claim that they acquired the land from the government in 1920. The other title is held by the heirs of Homer Barque who is said to have bought the land in 1975.

    After the 1988 fire that destroyed the Quezon City Register of Deeds records, the Manotoks applied for reconstitution and obtained the reconstituted title in 1991. The Barques applied for reconstitution of their own title in 1996. This started the case that is now with the Supreme Court en banc.

    The LRA ordered the reconstitution of the Barque title. The Manotoks appealed to the Court of Appeals who sustained the LRA and ordered the cancellation of the Manotok title. The Manotoks went to the Supreme Court, raising a number of issues:

    1. Whether the LRA has jurisdiction to rule on the validity of the Manotok title.

    2. Whether the Court of Appeals may assume jurisdiction over the cases.

    3. Whether the Court of Appeals may order the cancellation of the Manotok title and the reconstitution of the Barque title.

    In a majority decision penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, the Supreme Court’s First Division:

    1. Upheld the LRA decision declaring the Barque title as genuine (based on the owner’s duplicate certificate of title) and the Manotok title as spurious. It added that the LRA has jurisdiction to act on petitions for administrative reconstitution. Logically, the Court said, the LRA can declare a title sham or valid on its face.

    2. Ruled that the Court of Appeals properly exercised its appellate jurisdiction over the judgment of the LRA. “No useful purpose will be served if the determination of an issue is remanded to the trial court only to have its decision raised again to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court,” it said.

    3. Said that the Manotoks were not deprived of “their property” without due process when the Court of Appeals ordered the cancellation of their title even without a direct proceeding in the Regional Trial Court. By opposing the petition for reconstitution and by submitting their reconstituted title, the Manotoks acquiesced to the authority of the reconstituting officer, the LRA, and the Court of Appeals, and recognized their authority to pass judgment on their title.

    Although the Supreme Court decision has become final and executory, the Manotoks were able to have the Court en banc reopen the case. This is now the case that the Supreme Court has to resolve.


    In her memory, Cecilia

    In her memory, Cecilia

    The last thing I would do is to desecrate the memory of a brilliant, brave and staunch defender of the Constitution like the late Associate Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma.

    But her niece, Cecilia Muñoz Delis, thinks I am dragging her family into the alleged bribery. You are wrong, Cecilia. I am not. On the contrary, like I said, you should tell the Supreme Court en banc all you know about the bribery to protect her unsoiled name. And yours too, even if I do not know you personally.

    You said in your letter to me of Sept. 21 that you did not have anything to do with what might have happened. Then, please so tell the Court if you are asked.

    In the letter, you declared: “I vehemently deny that I received for my boss—a lady justice you say—a box, let alone five boxes which I inadvertently discovered to contain P10 million.”

    In the same letter you told me that the “only truth you can get from me is that the attempted bribery never occurred while I was employed as Judicial Staff of the PET.

    May I ask you then, if you know or think that there might have been bribery before or after you voluntarily resigned?

    Incidentally, do you make a distinction between termination and resignation? I ask the question because you declared in your letter that “the fact that you corrected your information … regarding the date of my termination of my employment does not cure the defect in your time line.”

    My question: Did you voluntarily resign on March 15, 2007 or were your services terminated?

    The affidavit

    It surprises me no end that in your sworn statement you declared “I am executing this affidavit to allow Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago to defend her honor before she is actually named in the articles of Mr. Macasaet that have been appearing daily at the Malaya newspaper since Sept. 19, 2007.”

    Your affidavit admits of two things. That the lady justice I have been writing about is Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago. That statement is a conclusion you made yourself.

    I never mentioned the name of the lady justice.

    Your statement “before she is actually mentioned in the articles of Mr. Macasaet” is another conclusion that I will divulge the identity of the lady justice. It was you who identified her. Not me. How did you know I might?

    In the sworn statement, you said you are executing the affidavit to allow Justice Consuelo Ynares to defend herself. In this sense I am grateful to you for obliging me in asking you to divulge the truth.

    As Voltaire said in some many words, I may not agree with what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

    Tabloid journalism

    You charged in your letter that I am in tabloid journalism. That is opinion, not fact. But you are entitled to say it.

    I must tell everyone that my instinct tells me that I might help serve the ends of justice if the Supreme Court can find it necessary to conduct an investigation to get at the truth.

    I have no other intention.

    I do not have one word about how good or bad I have been as a journalist. That’s for the likes of you to say.

    I have always maintained that I will never extol my virtues. Maybe I have none.

    I have no quarrel with anybody, not even the lady justice.

    I said you were fired. You said you voluntarily resigned. Can I have a copy of that resignation letter?

    The spokesman of the Court said your services were terminated by the lady justice. (I will not repeat the spokesman’s statement that she was “terminated.” Cecilia is alive and obviously well).

    My hope as I said in my previous piece is the court will produce the two contradictory letters. One in which you say you “voluntarily resigned” and the other showing you were dismissed by your boss. If my request does not serve the ends of justice, then I have proven to myself that, indeed, there is no justice in this country.

    Not Cecilia’s job

    In her letter of Sept. 21, Cecilia Munoz Diaz explained that “(third) as a matter of procedure, I would not have been tasked to receive those boxes, our male utility personnel would have been assigned to do that.”

    The matter of who picked up the boxes is not as important as the delivery of the boxes.

    It is my assumption, knowing how tightly the premises of the Supreme Court are secured, that all deliveries to the Supreme Court and its magistrates are recorded or logged by the security guard on duty.

    Might we now ask the Security Department of the Court to produce the logbook which, as a matter of security, should have recorded the receipt of boxes—all five of them—on different occasions, according to my source.

    In whose name were the boxes given? The logbook should also show who sent them.

    Cecilia replies


    Cecilia replies

    Following is the text of a letter Cecilia Munoz Delis, niece of the late respected jurist Cecilia Munoz Palma, wrote to me on Sept. 21 regarding a lady justice who is suspected of taking a bribe:

    “I write in response to the series of articles that has been appearing daily in the “Business Circuit” since September 18, 2007, the last one of which came out today, September 21, 2007. I am writing on the assumption that I am the Cecilia Muñoz Delis you named today, in view of some statements in your articles that cannot be merely coincidental.

    “I am the niece of the late Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma. I am a Bicolana and I was an employee of the Supreme Court until my voluntary resignation on March 15, 2007. These are the facts. Now, for your baseless reports.

    “You said in your September 18 blind item that, “A lady justice did not report for a day last week. Her secretary (whom you positively identified today as me) received a gift-wrapped box (which later turned out to be five boxes) about the size of two dozen milk cans. Believing that the gift might be something perishable, she opened the box. Indeed, it was a gift—estimated at P10 million. Posthaste, the secretary informed the magistrate about the gift. She thought she was doing her job. The lady justice fired her instead. x x x.” You went on to conclude that “since the employee was fired for opening the box which she thought contained perishable goods but turned out there was an estimated P10 million in it, she should be loyal to her duty of telling the truth.”

    “On September 20, you implored “Cecilia” to “tell the (Supreme) court en banc everything you know about the money that was sent in five boxes to your boss … Not in retaliation for your dismissal, but for no other reason that as a duty to your country and, I must again say, to honor the memory of your late illustrious aunt.

    “In today’s paper, you reiterated you plea, and even suggested that “the Chief Justice himself should find out where she (Cecilia) could be sent an invitation to appear before an investigation group in the Court.”

    “Allow me make some clarifications.

    “1. I was not a secretary but a judicial staff officer of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

    “2. Assuming I was the secretary you named with certainty in your articles, I vehemently deny that I received for my boss—a lady justice you say—a box, let alone five boxes, which I inadvertently discovered to contain P10 million.

    “A. In the first place, if this bribery attempt was made last week when the lady justice did not report for work, that would mean that it was made between September 9-15. As I said earlier, I resigned from the Court as early as March 15, 2007. The fact that you corrected your information today regarding the date of termination of my employment does not cure the defect in your timeline. The alleged bribery attempt still took place only last week, long after I left the court.

    “B. In the second place, I was not fired; I voluntarily resigned.

    “C. Third, as a matter of procedure, I would not have been tasked to receive those boxes; our male utility personnel would have been assigned to do that.

    “D. Fourth, it is highly unlikely for something as blatant as that bribery attempt to have been done right in the front doors of the Court, with its increased security, and teeming with people – both employees and the general public.

    “3. In other words, the scenario you painted and continue to paint is improbable and could only have emanated from a polluted source, who unfortunately chose me to be a part of this fictional charge.

    “4. I am not making this denial to protect anyone. If that were the case, I should have more reason to come forward, as you insist in your articles. But if it is the truth you seek, the only truth you can get from me is that the attempted bribery never occurred while I was employed as a judicial staff officer of the PET. If you wish someone to come forward to prove this allegation, it will not be me because I was never a part of it, nor do I possess any knowledge of such ever occurring.

    “My family and I have been suffering ever since your article came out last Tuesday, because I was being alluded to. This suffering has increased because the name of my beloved aunt – it is true that she was a “legal luminary and staunch defender of the Constitution” – has been drawn into a controversy that should not have involved me or any member of my family in the first place.

    “And so, I ask you, Sir, to please cease from mentioning my name or any of my relatives, living or deceased, in order to promote your tabloid journalism.

    “If your source is a reliable as you believe, I suggest you practice better judgment and journalistic responsibility by verifying your data before printing anything and affecting the lives of innocent people. If this is some kind of war you are waging against the lady justice, we do not want to be collateral damage.

    “Thank you.

    “Daisy Cecilia Munoz Delis”

    SC punishes its own

    I remember the cases of former Associate Justices Vicente Ericta, Hugo Gutierrez, and Fidel Purisima. Ericta was forced to resign after the Supreme Court censured him. His benefits were forfeited by the Court.

    Justice Ericta, in the days of Ferdinand Marcos, was accused of leaking bar questions to his son.

    Then there was the case of Justice Gutierrez. He resigned when our Ellen Tordesillas reported in 1992 that a lawyer of PLDT wrote his ponencia in the case of ETPI vs. the telephone company.

    Then came the case of Associate Justice Fidel Purisima. Nearly the same offense as Justice Ericta. Purisima, then chairman of the bar committee, did not disclose that he had a nephew who was taking the bar examination in that year.

    For that, Purisima was similarly censured. The Court forfeited his honoraria as bar examiner..

    Justice Purisima retired from the Court when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

    I have been consistent in reporting that a lady justice allegedly took a bribe. Let the Court investigate and act according to the facts that the investigation might establish.

    Like it did to Justices Purisima, Gutierrez and Ericta.

    Who is telling the truth?

    Newsbreak reported on its website yesterday that Midas Marquez, spokesman of the Supreme Court, “confirmed that Ynares-Santiago terminated Delis in March. He said that Delis was found out to have used the office telephone to make overseas calls, particularly to Japan.

    “Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago supposedly discovered this about October last year and gave Delis until December to look for a job.

    “However, Marquez said, Delis asked for more time thus she stayed on till March this year.”

    Funny, but the letter of Delis to me, printed in full above, states “I am a Bicolana and I was an employee of the Supreme Court until my voluntary resignation on March 15, 2007.”

    The spokesman of the Court told Newsbreak on-line that the services of Delis were terminated.

    What is the truth? Did Delis voluntarily resign or was she fired as claimed by the SC spokesman, Midas Marquez?

    Give us the proof

    Marquez said that Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago terminated the services of Cecilia Munoz Delis in March this year. The only “crime” of Delis that we can see in the explanation of Marquez is that she used the telephone of the Supreme Court to make calls to Japan. Supposedly, at that, according to Marquez.

    If we assume that it was the unauthorized calls to Japan that caused the dismissal of Delis, Justice Santiago has the duty to produce the documents proving the phone calls.

    In other offices, unauthorized overseas calls are indeed penalized. But not with dismissal. Usually, the costs of the calls are deducted from the salary of the erring employee.

    Another matter that must be clarified here is the production of supposedly two documents. There must be one in the personnel records of the SC that states that Delis voluntarily resigned as she said in her letter to me.

    There must be another that states that the services of Delis were terminated by Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago.

    Do both letters exist? It’s up to the Court to find out.