Sounds familiar for the Manotok family

This article written by Mr. Rod Fajardo III is very familiar to the Manotok Family. Like the University of the Philippines (UP), the Manotok family are being victimized by land-grabbing scammers or land-grabbing syndicates. The Manotoks have been in-possession of a large track of land for 85 years and actually have been occupying the said property for all these decades. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, and conveniently… “the case actually started with the burning of the Quezon City Hall sometime in 1988. The documents under the custody of the Register of Deeds were burned. Thus, arose the necessity of reconstituting documents, specially land titles”.

If there was no Fire, then clearly the Manotoks, who are in possession and are occupying the land,… would not have to face the land-grabbing syndicates who are armed with fake and forged documents.

CLAMPDOWN: UP goes after land grabbers
Rod P. Fajardo III

The Supreme Court made it plain enough when—for the nth time in September 2004—it upheld with finality the ownership of the University of the Philippines over its campus in Diliman, Quezon City. “We strongly admonish courts and unscrupulous lawyers to stop entertaining spurious cases seeking further to assail UP’s title,” it warned. “These cases open the dissolute avenues of graft to unscrupulous land-grabbers who prey like vultures upon the campus of UP. By such actions, they wittingly or unwittingly aid the hucksters who want to earn a quick buck by misleading the gullible to buy the Philippine counterpart of the proverbial London Bridge.”

If there is a hint of exasperation in the way the decision was worded, it must be because the Court is tired of repeating itself over the same issue for almost fifty years now. It first declared that UP is the rightful owner of the Diliman campus on October 31, 1959. Since then, it has decided eight more similar cases with the same verdict.

Even the Land Registration Authority (LRA) has set the record straight. In a report issued by its Verification Committee in August 1984, the LRA traced the origin of UP’s Transfer Certificate Title (TCT) No. 9462 which covers the University’s Diliman campus to the TCT No. 36048 of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Apparently, the Philippine Government executed a deed of sale in favor of UP on March 1, 1949 relative to TCT No. 36048. Thus, TCT No. 36048 was cancelled in lieu of TCT No. 9462 issued in the name of UP.

Going by these judicial declarations, UP should not have a problem with chasing away illegal settlers.
Yet this is not the case. In the past decades, UP has been busy keeping land grabbers at bay. It’s almost funny how all these claimants come out of the woodwork, their bogus papers matched only by their absurd claims.

But this is exactly what alarms UP. Where are these fake documents coming from? How do the claimants get hold of them? Armed with fake titles, they are able to get their day in court no matter if their claims run from the incredulous to the hilarious. Some of these claimants even manage to elevate their arguments to the Court of Appeals, and quite a few to the Supreme Court itself.

Is there an invisible hand that orchestrates these relentless and seemingly organized land-grabbing attacks against the UP property?

Unholy crusade

Only this October, for example, UP won a favorable decision from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against St. Mary’s Crusade to Alleviate Poverty of Brethren Foundation Inc., which seeks the reconstitution of a parcel of land in Quezon City with an area of 4,304,623 square meters. The claim apparently encompasses the 493-hectare Diliman property.

St. Mary’s Crusade claims that the land area in question is covered by Original Certificate Title (OCT) No. 1609 which is owned by one Marcelino Tiburcio. On November 26, 1985, Tiburcio supposedly executed a Deed of Transfer and Conveyance of OCT No. 1609 in favor of St. Mary Village Association, Inc. It is based on this alleged Deed of Transfer and Conveyance that St. Mary’s Crusade is now laying claim over the property.

Interestingly, in 1989, an entity named St. Mary Village Association, Inc. filed a petition seeking the annulment of UP’s titles to its Diliman property based on an alleged Spanish grant issued on March 25, 1877 in favor of one Eladio Tiburcio. The trial court dismissed the petition on January 31, 1990.
The people behind St. Mary’s Crusade admit that they do not have the original certificate but they do have a technical description of the property in question, duly certified as correct by the National Archives of the Philippines and a certification issued by the Land Management Bureau of Manila. How did they get past these government agencies? But what the Office of the Vice President for Legal Affairs finds most curious is that these claimants refuse to identify in their petition all the persons that they claim would benefit from the property. Who exactly are these people?

A check on the background of the people behind St. Mary’s Crusade reveals that they are all residents of the Diliman campus, presently living in the housing area allotted by UP for its qualified personnel under its housing program. All but one of the petitioners had been former UP employees who had availed of and qualified for housing privileges. These employees subsequently resigned or retired from active service but refused to leave their respective housing units. They are, in short, illegal tenants, and therefore subject to eviction.

Monomania of lands
And then there’s the perplexing case of Prince Julian Morden Tallano. Here is a man who claims to be a descendant of King Luisong Tagean whose sons supposedly included Rajah Soliman and Lapu-Lapu. (This alleged filial relationship between Soliman and Lapu-Lapu—two prominent figures in the country’s history—has apparently escaped the attention of historians for it is not mentioned in textbooks.) And by virtue of his lineage, Tallano is now asserting ownership over several land titles. OCT No. T-01-4, for example, covers the whole archipelago and its four regions: Luzon, Visayas, Palawan-Zamboanga embracing Kalayaan and Sabah, and Mindanao. TCT No. T-408, on the other hand, covers 1.253 billion square meters of Metro Manila.

What is even more baffling is that despite the patent absurdities of such claims, the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Pasay City allegedly promulgated on November 4, 1975 an Order for Reconstitution of TCT No. T-408 and OCT No. T-01-4 , among other titles, in favor of Gregorio Madrigal Acopiado, Tallano’s supposed great great grandfather. As in the case of St. Mary’s Crusade, the original copy of the said decision was reportedly lost or, more specifically, destroyed in a fire that gutted the Pasay City Hall on January 18, 1992. Tallano’s group, however, claims they have a true copy of the decision certified by the Office of the Solicitor General.

In 2005, Tallano and a certain Anacleto Madrigal Acopiado filed with the Regional Trial Court Branch 220 of Quezon City a petition for the enforcement of the CFI-Pasay City’s 1975 decision. Acopiado insisted that by virtue of said judgment, UP’s TCT over its Diliman campus is null and void. Thus, UP should reconvey ownership over its Diliman property to the Acopiados.

Convinced that the alleged CFI judgment was secured through fraud, the UP System Office of Legal Affairs sought the assistance of the Office of the Solicitor General and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to determine the true identity of the claimants. In a report dated June 10, 2005, the NBI declared that Julian Morden Tallano is not a prince but an impostor who, many times in the past, had assumed different identities and provided different addresses with the evident aim of defrauding other people. Tallano, who turned out to be a native of Nueva Ecija, was also found to be the subject of several warrants of arrest for estafa, falsification of documents, and swindling, among many others.

The identity of Anacleto Madrigal Acopiado, meanwhile, could only be established by an altered death certificate issued by the Local Civil Registrar of Taguig, Manila on November 28, 1994. Moreover, the NBI could not find any document to prove that Don Gregorio Madrigal Acopiado exists or ever existed.

Cracking the whip
There are countless other spurious claims over the ownership of the UP Diliman campus currently docketed in trial courts. And, as long as equally spurious documents are readily available from the black market, many more are expected to come out.

This is the reason UP is going beyond asserting its ownership over its property. UP is now determined to go after these organized land-grabbing factions who are growing ever more brazen.