The Story of The “Heirs of Homer Barque”

Here is the consolidated article in the “Overnight Billionaire” series by Mr. Victor Agustin written as:

Overnight Billionaire

Overnight Billionaire 2

Overnight Billionaire 3

It does not need a Sherlock Holmes, Pink Panther or a regular person to understand what the “Heirs of Homer Barque” are upto. Ms. Teresita Barque-Hernandez has a small real-estate company and all of a sudden just woke up and realized that her father owned a multi-billion piece of property. But Mr. Homer Barque, now deceased, never told anyone that he owned the property and he never even entered the property. Most likely, Mr. Homer Barque has not even seen the property which his “Heirs” claim to be his.

Enjoy these articles:

Overnight Billionaire
By Victor Agustin
Last updated 00:49am (Mla time) 07/21/2006

Published on Page B5 of the July 21, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE Supreme Court has made a litigant an overnight billionaire, and Justice Antonio Carpio is wincing from his colleagues’ decision.

The case involves a 34-hectare piece of property right behind the Ayala Heights subdivision in Quezon City, whose title, in the name of the long-time settlers, the Manotoks, was effectively invalidated in favor of a new claimant.

The new claimant, a certain Teresita Barque-Hernandez, said to be a daughter of the late Homer L. Barque, surfaced in 1996, claiming that their copy of the land title had been destroyed in the City Hall fire of 1988.

The long and the short of it is that, last December, the Supreme Court’s First Division, then chaired by outgoing Chief Justice Hilario Davide, not only upheld the reconstitution of the Barque title but also cancelled the Manotok title.

The First Division also modified the Land Registration Authority (LRA) decision that it is up to the Regional Trial Court, as the LRA had wanted, to determine the actual ownership of a disputed property, as had been spelled out in Presidential Decree 1529, the Property Registration Decree.

Ironically, the high court’s decision also effectively set aside the factual basis of a 1984 decision by the same First Division, then chaired by Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, affecting the same 34-hectare property.

The 1984 case, involving a spurned tenancy claim, referred to the findings of the Court of Agrarian Relations that the Balara property was donated by Severino Manotok in 1946 to his eight children and two grandchildren.

The 1984 decision even noted that the Manotok heirs in 1950 used the property as their capital contribution to form the still-existing Manotok Realty Inc.

The Manotok heirs include Rosita Go, the wife of banker Edward Go, and the family of retired general Mamerto Bocanegra, who lives in the sprawling compound.

Nothing is known about Barque-Hernandez, except that she uses a No. 9 Pluto St., Greenland Village, Rosario, Pasig City, address, and that her counsel is also Joseph Estrada’s counsel, former fiscal Jose Flaminiano.

According to court records, the late Barque not only had a duplicate Transfer Certificate of Title but also real estate tax receipts and tax declarations. Five years of accumulated real estate taxes were allegedly paid in one lump sum, shortly before filing the 1996 claim.

It is not immediately clear why, since 1946, when the Manotok patriarch transferred the Balara land title to his heirs, Barque or his representative(s) never attempted to take legal or physical possession of any portion of the 34-hectare rolling land, and did it only in 1996.

In his dissenting opinion, which incidentally is longer than the opinion of decision author Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Carpio noted not only the flip-flopping findings of the LRA but also the Court of Appeals, having reversed itself in invalidating the Manotok title.

Carpio’s position is that, although the LRA may reconstitute the land title, ownership of the disputed property must still be determined in a full-blown trial before the Regional Trial Court, and not the appellate court and now the Supreme Court assuming “equity distribution” over the case, “when the law,” Carpio added, “has not granted such jurisdiction.”

But the First Division is steadfast in its ruling, saying it would be “needlessly circuitous” to remand the case to the Regional Trial Court after the LRA and two Court of Appeals divisions had already ruled the Manotok title as invalid.

“Basic is the rule that factual findings of agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions are accorded not only respect but even finality, aside from the consideration that this court is essentially not a trier of facts,” said the First Division, as it again denied a renewed appeal from the Manotoks to bring the case for review by the entire Supreme Court.

“Without such authority, the LRA would be a mere robotic agency clothed only with mechanical powers.” To stop their ejectment, the Manotoks have filed an adverse claim with the LRA and Register of Deeds, although it is not clear if that can stop the writ of possession that Barque-Hernandez had already reportedly obtained.

Almost one and a half times the size of the University of Santo Tomas campus, the contested property, at a conservative estimate of P5,000 a square meter, is easily worth P1.7 billion. Except for the dozen houses built by the Manotok heirs, the property remains a “rolling, forestall land,” hardly changed since 1912, when the Manotok patriarch was said to have first laid claim on the land.

Overnight Billionaire 2

By Victor Agustin

Last updated 05:59am (Mla time) 07/24/2006

Published on page B2 of the July 24, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT IS BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE mischievous spirits have run circles around the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, causing the learned justices to award the 34-hectare Manotok compound behind Ayala Heights, Quezon City, to an unknown claimant.

Read Cocktales, July 21, 2006, for background and then consider these:

A realtor-wife of a Caloocan City Regional Trial Court judge had been selling lots and bringing prospective buyers to the P1.7-billion compound even while the case was still being heard by the Court of Appeals.

The realtor-wife and the judge happen to be neighbors of the “overnight billionaire,” Teresita Barque-Hernandez, of 9 Pluto St., Greenland Village, Rosario, Pasig City.

The Greenland Village house that Barque-Hernandez uses is not registered in her name–a detective agency found out that she is merely renting the property–despite her claim to the 34-hectare property and presumably other inheritance.

A check with the Bureau of Internal Revenue showed no tax account number has been issued to Barque-Hernandez. No employment history or business affiliation is known about her, except that she is being represented by Erap counsel, former Fiscal Jose Flaminiano.

The Register of Deeds of Quezon City who had initially resisted issuing duplicate papers to support the Barque-Hernandez claim was transferred to Cebu under duress.

The administrator of the Land Registration Authority, Reynaldo Maulit, under whose tenure the Manotok title was cancelled, is now the lawyer of another private individual who had obtained a title to and is now claiming the 30-hectare Los Baños compound of the Department of Science and Technology.

And, in a sign of–to be polite about it–judicial inadvertence, both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court’s First Division were unaware that the ownership of the same 34-hectare property had already been upheld in favor of the Manotok family by the Supreme Court way back in July 1984 under GR L-62626.

The Manotok lawyer who appeared in and won that 1984 case is now a Supreme Court justice, Romeo Callejo Sr. Callejo was with the Second Division and apparently was not consulted on the case when the First Division handed down the controversial ruling shortly before last Christmas.

Just last month, a certain lawyer Lito Abrogar, allegedly with Ayala Land, e-mailed a proposal to banker Edward Go, claiming that a client of his, not Barque-Hernandez, owns the 34-hectare compound and offered P35 million to the Manotoks to ally against Barque-Hernandez.

In return, the Manotoks would give up their claim to their property in favor of the Abrogar client, and would be allowed to continue living in the property for the duration of the court case, this time against Barque-Hernandez.

(Correction: The first name of banker Edward Go’s wife, another Manotok heiress, is Pacita, not Rosita, as had been reported in Friday’s column.)

Overnight billionaire 3

By Victor Agustin
Last updated 00:07am (Mla time) 07/31/2006
ERAP counsel Jose Flaminiano furnished some biographical data on his “overnight billionaire” client, whose claim on the 34-hectare Manotok compound in Diliman has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

According to Flaminiano, the lucky litigant, Teresita Barque-Hernandez, is a retired teacher who owns the Pasig house that she lives in, contrary to information furnished to Cocktales in previous columns.

In 2003, Barque-Hernandez put in P62,500 as paid-up capital to form a real estate company for the urban poor, with proper SEC and BIR papers to boot.

Flaminiano also traced the provenance of Barque-Hernandez–Cocktales has several photos of the alleged Barque-Hernandez bungalow, showing its rusted roof and makeshift garage–but, unfortunately, the learned counsel failed to answer the most crucial question of all: When and how much did his client acquire the multibillion-peso, 34-hectare property?