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?

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.

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.

Suppression of Evidence

http://www.malaya.com.ph/11242009/busicircuit.html

Suppression of evidence

We claimed in an earlier item that there are curious circumstances attending the land dispute among the heirs of Severino Manotok, Homer Barque and Vicente Manahan.

We will now prove our claim. It is on record that the Manotoks continue to be given the run-around in the Land Registration Administration. In fact, the LRA openly and flagrantly violates an order of the Court of Appeals, made in open court requiring the Land Management Bureau to provide the Manotoks with copies of documents pertaining to the property in question, the LMB refused to budge.

This refusal is a direct indication of bias against the Manotoks.

However, the Manotoks were able to secure a copy of their deed of conveyance in favor of Severino Manotok from the National Archives.

Thus, the Manotoks were able to give the lie to the claim of the Manahans that they have no right to own the property in spite of 90 years of continued possession.

There are no records that either the Barques or the Manahans ever set foot on what is now a multi-billion asset consisting of 34 hectares of prime land in Quezon City.

The submission to the CA of the deed of conveyance left the claim of the Manahans worthless. Moot and academic, as lawyers love to say.

I find it funny that the CA did not make sure that the LMB comply with its own open court order. If it did, the Manotoks would not have had to go to the trouble of getting the document from the National Archives.

What does one make out of that? Just asking.

The Supreme Court erred

The lawyer of the Manotoks, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, acknowledged legal scholar and a man who commands the respect of friends and enemies, filed a partial motion for reconsideration assailing the remand of the case to the Court of Appeals.

The CA was told that the remand to the CA violates the Supreme Court’s own findings that the regional trial court has the exclusive and original jurisdiction to resolve questions related to land titles.

More important, Justice Feliciano alleged that the SC decision contradicts a provision in the Civil Code which he said states that “a possessor in the concept of an owner (as is the case of the Manotoks) has in its favor the legal presumption that he possesses legal title over the property.”

If this law had been complied with by the SC, the Manotoks cannot be required to prove their ownership of the property.

My way of saying it is the burden of proof of ownership belongs to the adverse claimant, not to the presumed owner or a possessor in the concept of an owner.

The burden of proof, in ordinary cases, is always on the complainant. Never on the respondent.

The motion for partial reconsideration was denied.

Not a vital document

The other reason Justice Feliciano filed a partial motion for reconsideration was to remind the Supreme Court that it knows only too well, or should know it that well, that the only basis for the claim of the Manahans is the Deed of Conveyance which they claimed the Manotoks did not have, but turned out it had.

The document was simply denied to the Manotoks by the LRA.

According to Justice Feliciano, the High Court has previously and repeatedly ruled that “the absence of a deed of conveyance does not render the title of purchases of friar land void.”

“In short,” he said, “the SC only needs to be guided by its previous decisions.”

Just the same the High Court denied the partial motion for reconsideration.

Under the remand ruling, the CA shall hear and receive evidence on the “Manotoks’ chain of title and ownership claim over the property.

After that is done, the CA proceeds to report its findings and recommended conclusions to the Supreme Court.

But how can they proceed to present evidence when the LRA flagrantly violates the open court order of the CA to provide the Manotoks with copies of the documents related to their alleged title?

It appears that many hurdles have been thrown in the way of the Manotoks.

Confusing, maybe wrong

What is seen as another mistake in the remand of the case to the Court of Appeals is that the Supreme Court may have assigned or proposed to itself “adjudicate final relief” on “who the proper claimant of the property is.”

Presumably the Supreme Court is to be guided by the findings and recommendations of the Court of Appeals. The CA is an inferior court. It can be reversed by the SC. In fact, whenever it feels necessary, the High Tribunal reverses itself.

In the event that the SC makes a ruling that does not sit with the findings and recommendations of the CA, what should be the High Court’s source of facts?

It should have been the regional trial court from the very start because there is a law that states that judicial reconstitution of land titles is an original and exclusive function of the RTC.

Since the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and may, theoretically, not abide by the findings of the CA, will the facts of the case be determined by the regional trial court as required by law?

After all, the RTC’s decision can be appealed to the CA and the CA’s ruling may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Pressure?

I have long heard that a powerful man is interested in the Manotok land dispute. In fact, he is rumored to have started exerting pressure on the Land Registration Administration.

The circumstances attending the case, principally the refusal of the LMB to provide copies of documents to the Manotoks may be interpreted as an indication of the existence of the alleged pressure.

I have also been told that the wife of a powerful official in the Arroyo regime is brokering the sale of the land, assuming it will be taken away by the Supreme Court from the Manotoks, to another influential person who presents himself as a savior of sinners.

We have to rely on the integrity of the Supreme Court. However, it can make a fatal mistake. The mistake becomes part of the law of the land.

The mistake is always claimed to have been made in the best lights of the majority of the magistrates.

That is why the Court is right even when it is wrong. There are no two ways of looking at it.

For as long as the mistake is not deliberately made in consideration of some pieces of silver, I continue to feel at ease with the Court. But such may not always be the case.

Torrens title vs. deed of conveyance

The government agency that deals with land, land-management, land-titles and everything else land-related should be investigated. Someone or some people within that agency is doing dishonest, anomalous, destructive forgeries and certifications without thinking of the consequences of their actions. Again, we can see the outrageous and unbelievable claims being made by Rosendo Manahan & Felicitas Manahan. They should really be investigated and all those involved in this land-grabbing scam should be exposed and put to justice. This is not good for the honest investing public and honest landowners.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/11202009/busicircuit.html

Torrens title vs. deed of conveyance

The Court of Appeals is faced with a choice between a Torrens title of the heirs of Severino Manotok over a 34-hectare prime land they have been in possession of since 1919 and a deed of conveyance claimed to have been issued to the heirs of Vicente Manahan on April 17, 2000.

The Manahans are now saying that their deed was issued by the Land Management Bureau over lot No. 823 of the vast Piedad Estate.

How the LMB issued the deed in spite of the existence of a Torrens title in the name of Severino Manotok is another question that the Court should find an answer to after examining the evidence presented by the contending parties.

The Manahans filed an intervention in September 2006 claiming that on the basis of a deed of conveyance Vicente Manahan allegedly purchased the property from the Republic of the Philippines which issued sales certificate No. 511.

I failed to notice the dates of the purchase of the property by Vicente Manahan and the dates of issuance of the certificate of sale which was the basis of the deed of conveyance.

I also failed to see the date of the issuance of deed of conveyance.

Background

The land dispute was originally and still is between the heirs of Severino Manotok and the heirs of Homer Barque.

The dispute started with the Land Registration Commission, on to the Court of Appeals and finally to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld the claim of the heirs of Homer Barque. Two motions for reconsideration were denied leaving the Barques with what they thought was their right to file a petition for the cancellation of the title of the Manotoks and for the issuance of a new title in favor of the Barques.

In fairness to the Court, it granted a petition for en banc orals by the Manotoks.

The Court finally decided to remand the case to the Court of Appeals where it originated although there is a law that states that judicial reconstitution is an original and exclusive function of the Regional Trial Court.

From what I can understand from this decision, the Manotoks have to prove the genuineness of their title.

The appellate court has the duty to submit to the Supreme Court its finding of facts and the applicable laws.

The establishment of the facts is a function of the Regional Trial Court but the Court of Appeals can also review finding of facts which it already did when, after initially denying the petitions for review of the heirs of Homer Barque, two of its divisions made an identical ruling upholding the claim of the Barques.

Unusual behavior

It is on record that Severino Manotok and later his successors in interest or heirs have been occupying the property and paying taxes on it since he was granted the Torrens title to the land in 1919.

The Manotok family has introduced improvements on the land. On the other hand, neither the Manahans nor the Barques and their heirs ever questioned the possession of the land by the Manotoks. Not until the records of the register of deeds of Quezon City went up in smoke sometime in 1988. It took the Barques several years until 1996 after the fire to file a petition for reconstitution with the Land Registration Administration.

Again at the risk of being cited for contempt, I dare say it is beyond me and many others to understand why the heirs of Barque and Manahan allowed the Manotoks to be in continued possession of the property from the time Severino Manotok was issued a Torrens title in 1919.

Didn’t either the Barques or the Manahans know that they in effect allowed the Manotoks to possess their property for almost a hundred years and benefiting immensely from it?

Realtors estimate that the 34-hectare prime property in Quezon City now commands a price of at least P5 billion.

Torrens title vs. deed of conveyance

The land dispute among the Manotoks, Barques and Manahans is clearly a question of which documents the Court of Appeals shall consider authentic and superior over the others.

The Manotoks maintain that they have Torrens title issued to Severino Manotok as early as 1919 and have been in possession of and paying taxes on the land since then.

On the other hand, the Manahans are basically relying on the Deed of Conveyance which they said is derived from a Certificate of Sale. The Certificate is made to appear that Vicente Manahan bought the 34-hectare property, known as lot No. 823 from the Republic of the Philippines.

On the other hand, the Barques who never set foot on the land occupied and improved by the Manotoks since 1919 and paying taxes on it, suddenly came from nowhere in the 1990s and filed a petition for the reconstitution of their alleged title which they claimed was lost to a fire in 1988.

Initially, the LRA denied the Barques petition but later turned around and approved it. The same turning around happened in the Court of Appeals acting on the separate petitions for review of the Manotoks and the Barques. These acts, initially administrative since these originated from IRA and later judicial when the CA took over acting on petitions for review, directly assaulted the Torrens title of the Manotoks without giving weighty evidence except some tax payments which were made only in the 1990’s.

Reconstituted title

It must be explained very clearly that the Manotoks knew that their original title of the 34-hectare property was lost in a 1988 fire that gutted the office of the register of deeds of Quezon City.

They acted more quickly than the heirs of Home Bargue in the sense that three years after the fire they were issued a reconstituted title in 1991 without the Barques and the Manahans raising a question.

On the other hand, the Barques who, it must be repeatedly said, never knew the terrain of the land because they had never set foot on it, filed a petition for reconstitution on what they claimed was their original title lost to the same fire, only in 1996.

The petition of the Barques was filed with the Land Registration Commission five years after the Manahans secured a similar reconstituted title over the same property.

How the LRA first denied the petition of the Barques and later approved it after the Manotoks were issued a similar reconstituted title five years before is another question that the Court of Appeals must answer.

There are curious matters that continue to attend this case such that back in the LRA, there were suggestions that powerful people were interceding for the Manahans.

Dispute over Piedad estate continues

Again, the scammer Teresita Barque-Hernandez is still trying to get away with land-grabbing and not even paying the court for any filing-fees. Only stupid people would believe her outrageous lies that she only knew about a multi-billion peso property when her father died and therefore she has never ever set foot on the property which she claims she owns. Again, it is outrageous that Teresita Barque-Hernandez’s sister burned the tax-receipts which are the only proof that they are paying taxes on the property. What a scam! What is the connection of businessman Cedric Lee to this land scam?

http://www.malaya.com.ph/11162009/metro4.html

Dispute over Piedad estate continues

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By Peter J.G. Tabingo

–>A DAUGHTER of the late businessman Homer Barque testified over the weekend at the Court of Appeals that the disputed 34-hectare parcel of land in Rizal, known as the Piedad estate, has been with their family since 1975.

Lot 823, nestled in Culiat, Capitol Hills, Old Balara and the posh Ayala Heights in Quezon City, is covered by TCT No. 210177 issued to Barque. The lot’s value is now pegged at P3.4-billion.

Aside from the Barques, the heirs of Severino Manotok are also claiming the land.

The dispute between the two claimants was spawned by a fire in June 1988 that gutted the office of the Register of Deeds in Quezon City, which prompted the Manotoks to apply for the administrative reconstitution of the titles. The heirs of Barque did not oppose the application for administrative reconstitution and a reconstituted title was issued in 1991.

During cross examination last Friday, Teresita Barque-Hernandez told justices that the subject property was purchased by her father from a business associate named Emiliano Setosta out of his retirement funds and proceeds from their bus line business.

Hernandez admitted to Manotok counsel Roberto San Juan that she had no personal knowledge about the details of the property or its existence until 1991 when the Barque patriarch requested her shortly before he died to redeem the title from her grandmother Felicia Ventura.

San Juan who alleged that the certificate of title in Hernandez’s possession was spurious questioned why the Barque children never learned of or cared about the property until that time. He pointed out that Hernandez never visited the place even after her father’s death in 1991.

He also got Hernandez to admit that the Barques had no copies of any tax declaration receipts for the property. Hernandez said her younger sister Estrellita “who is already at the age of reason,” had burned the tax receipts.

The Manotoks, on the other hand, claimed that they have been religiously paying real estate taxes on the property from 1933 until the present.

The Manotoks’ lawyer claimed Hernandez’s failure to provide copies of the tax payments only proved that the Barques’ title is a forgery and that their proof of ownership is a sham.

The CA’s Special 15th Division is hearing the case after the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Dec. 18, 2008 restoring ownership of the parcel of land to the Manotoks.

In its December 2008 ruling, the SC remanded the 20-year-old land cases to the CA for further proceedings and reception of evidence, and turned down the arguments of the Barque heirs that raised factual issues in determining whether the Land Registration Administration had the authority to conduct administrative reconstitution proceedings.

The controversy in the Manotok-Barque land dispute is whether judicial reconstitution of title may be made administratively that ignores, if not violates, the law giving the RTC exclusive jurisdiction.

With this new ruling, the SC abandoned its First Division’s own Dec. 12, 2005 decision affirming the two rulings of the CA directing the Quezon City Register of Deeds to cancel the Manotok title, and ordering LRA to reconstitute the Barque title.–Evangeline C. de Vera

Twice reversed

http://www.malaya.com.ph/feb26/busi8.htm

‘No cause is hopeless if it is just. Errors, no matter how popular, carry the seeds of their own destruction.’ – John W. Scoville

*  *  *

Twice reversed

Maybe it is a not-too-sudden twist of fate. Maybe, it is the law taking its course.

Whatever it is, the records show that Supreme Court Associate Justice Consuelo Y. Santiago of the Fifth Division had three of her peers agreeing with her earlier ponencia that heirs of Homer Barque are the real owners of a 34-hectare property occupied for many decades by the heirs of Severino Manotok. The reverse is now true.

The learned lady justice stood pat on her interpretation of the law. She denied two motions for reconsideration filed by the Manotoks. The ruling was about to become final. In fact there was an entry of judgment.

In her ruling Justice Santiago ordered the register of deeds of Quezon City to transfer the title of the multi-billion property in the name of the heirs of Homer Barque. The heirs of Severino Manotok were to lose the property said to be covered by a Torrens title.

But like they say, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Up to the time, the second motion for reconsideration was denied by the 5th Division, the fat lady had not sung.

In time, rather unexpectedly, she finally sang. In the end, it was over and the heirs of Homer Barque were not to set foot on the property. It did not belong to them, after all.

The fat lady sings

The “fat lady” in this case came in the person of respected and retired Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, who at this time, must be in his eighties, if not older.

It was he who sought an en banc hearing about the decision of Justice Consuelo Santiago.

There was an open debate, exchange of interpretation of what law is applicable on the case and how the facts were to be appreciated.

Procedurally, the court en banc had Justice Santiago defending her ruling. She would have been the ponente if majority of the en banc agreed with her. But the court overruled her ponencia, voting 8-6.

The ponente became the dissenter. She could have been two-time ponente in the same case had she been supported by her peers in her original ponencia in the Fifth Division.

In my interpretation, it was a simple case of illustrating the old Latin legal maxim “dura lex, sed lex.” The law is hard but it is the law.

Majority of the justices in the fifth division ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque. The lone dissenter was Justice Antonio T. Carpio.

But in he en banc, eight minds are better than six.

Final ponencia

After the Court en banc voted against the original ponencia of Justice Santiago, Justice Dante Tinga was assigned to pen the decision of the majority in the en banc vote.

That left Justice Santiago a dissenter. A ponente in a division decision becoming a dissenter in the en banc ruling does not happen that often in the Supreme Court.

When it does, we get the feeling that the law, wrongly interpreted in the division decision, is set aright in the en banc.

The law takes its course in the right direction. The division ponencia was wrong. The denial by the First Division of two motions for reconsideration did not bring the ruling of Justice Santiago remotely close to what the majority believed was right.

One way of looking or interpreting this situation is that the en banc or collective minds of majority of the 15 magistrates are more correct than the mind of one justice in a division supported by three peers.

The rule of the majority becomes more significant and credible when the number increases from five to 15. In the en banc vote, it is not incorrect to say that eight minds against six including the four in the First Division, are better.

Denied with finality

The law allows the losing litigant to file a motion for reconsideration. The lawyers of the heirs of Homer Barque did just that.

But again, the Barques could not change the ruling of the eight magistrates in the en banc. To write finis to the case, the en banc denied the motion for reconsideration with finality. The ruling is now part of the law of the land after some procedural matters are complied with.

The decision is to remand the case to the Court of Appeals.

It might be said that Justice Santiago lost again. My presumption is that, being a dissenter in the en banc, she had wished to grant the motion for reconsideration. The minority she led was out-voted.

Maybe there is a lesson to learn from this case. Maybe the Court should draw up guidelines on what to accept for orals by the en banc or what to support at the division level.

The grant of en banc orals depend on the weakness or errors of the questioned decision and the strength of the new arguments.

En banc orals are on exclusive authority of the Chief Justice but the final decision belongs to the majority in the Court.

In other words, a ponencia made at the division level, can be reversed by the en banc if the division refused, as in the case of Manotok vs Barque, to reverse itself.

Third case

A lawyer friend told me that a division ruling as in case of Manotok being reversed by the en banc is only the third such case in the history of the Supreme Court.

The ultimate meaning and interpretation of the final ruling by the en banc is that justice prevailed in the end.

Let it not be said that the en banc shamed Justice Santiago. Let it be said that her peers by a vote of 8-6 loudly told her that she was wrong although she insisted four times that she was right.

The first was her ponencia.

Then Justice Santiago and her division denied two motions for reconsideration by the heirs of Severino Manotok. That was the second.

The third was the reversal by the en banc of her ponencia.

The final blow or we might say death knell was the resolution denying the Barque motion for reconsideration with finality.

It is said that the Court is powerful because it is right even when it is wrong. In the Manotok case, the Court set aright what the en banc had seen was wrong.

The final decision is a triumph of justice. Justice Santiago herself should be happy about it.

Manotok case remanded to appellate court

There is justice indeed. The land-grabbing scam of the “Heirs of Homer Barque” has lost this round. It is really hard to believe that the “Heirs of Homer Barque” found titles to a property that is worth a huge amount of money bu their deceased father Homer Barque never ever mentioned about.

LINK

Manotok case remanded to appellate court

By Rey E. Requejo

The Supreme Court has remanded to the Court of Appeals for reception of further evidence the land dispute case involving the Manotok clan and heirs of Homer Barque, who both claimed ownership over the Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate situated in Quezon City, covering 342,945 square meters of prime property.

Voting 8-6, the SC en banc through Associate Justice Dante Tinga set aside the Dec. 12, 2005 decision of the Court’s First Division, which affirmed the two CA rulings both directing the QC Register of Deeds to cancel the Manotok title, while ordering Land Registration Authority (LRA) to reconstitute the Barque title.

“The Court recognizes that there is not yet any sufficient evidence for us to warrant the annulment of the Manotok title. All that the record indicates thus far is evidence not yet refuted by clear and convincing proof that the Manotoks’ claim to title is flawed. To arrive at an ultimate determination, the formal reception of evidence is in order,” the SC said in its resolution noting that the tribunal was not a trier of facts.

“The primary focus for the Court of Appeals, as an agent of this Court, in receiving and evaluating evidence should be whether the Manotoks can trace their claim of title to a valid alienation by the government of Lot no. 823 of the Piedad Estate, which was a Friar Land. On that evidence, this Court may ultimately decide whether annulment of the Manotok title is warranted…”

The SC said the CA should hear and receive evidence, conclude the proceedings and submit to the Court a report on its findings and recommended conclusions within three months from notice of the resolution.

In its ruling, the SC admitted the Court’s First Division erred in its 2005 decision, affirming the CA ruling that cancelled the land title of the Manotok clan over the prime lot, which is part of the Piedad Estate in then Caloocan town of Rizal province at the same time declaring the Barque heirs as real owners.

According to the SC, neither the LRA nor the CA has jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title over the property valued at more than P5 billion.

Under the law, the CA’s jurisdiction covers only special civil actions and actions for annulment of judgments of the regional trial court, the high court said, sustaining the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its position that the LRA had no jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title nor rule on the validity of a certificate of title.

It cited paragraph 2, Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which mandated the regional trial court the exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions involving the title or possession of real property.

Based on the provisions of the Presidential Decree 1529 or the Property Registration Decree, the LRA had no power to cancel titles, the SC noted.

“The 2005 decision accepted the findings of the LRA and the Court of Appeals that the Manotok title was spurious and accordingly sanctioned its cancellation, even though no direct attack on the title had been initiated before a trial court,” the SC said.

“That the 2005 decision erred in that regard is a necessary consequence following our earlier explanation of why the mere existence of the Manotok title necessarily barred the LRA from inquiring into the validity of that title.”

The row over the Piedad Estate came after a fire struck Quezon City Hall, destroying, among others, numerous certificates of land title at the Register of Deeds office.

Records showed that Barque title actually involved two parcels as part of Piedad Estate Lot 823, measuring 342,945 square meters, while the Manotok title referred to a parcel, but with a similar area.

The Barques filed a petition with the LRA for administrative reconstitution of the original transfer certificate of title 210177 issued in the name of Homer Barque, claiming their title was among the records destroyed by the 1988 fire.

They submitted copies of the alleged owner’s duplicate of the Barque title, real estate tax receipts, tax declarations and a plan covering the said property.

The Manotoks, led by Severino Manotok IV, filed an opposition, claiming that the lot covered by the Barque title formed part of the land covered by their reconstituted title TCT RT-22481 (372302) in the name of Severino, et al.

The LRA denied Barques’ petition but later reversed its ruling and declared that Manotoks’ title was fraudulently reconstituted.

But the LRA noted that only the regional trial court could cancel the Manotoks’ title as a Torrens title.

The LRA later denied the Manotoks motion for reconsideration as well as the motion of Barques prayer for the immediate reconstitution of their title.

This prompted the two parties to separately elevate the case before the CA through a petition for review.

During the pendency of their petitions, a certain Felicitas Manahan filed a motion for leave to intervene, claiming ownership over the subject property.

The CA Second Division issued an amended decision on Nov.7, 2003 granting Barques’ immediate reconstitution of their title being valid and genuine.

The CA Third Division, where the Manotoks’ appeal was raffled off, also upheld the right of the Barques over the Piedad Estate.

On Dec. 12, 2005, the SC’s First Division issued a decision penned by Associate Justice Consuelo-Ynares Santiago and concurred in by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., and Associate Justices Leonardo Quisumbing and Adolfo Azcuna affirming the CA ruling.

The ruling became final after it denied the motion for reconsideration of the Manotoks on June 19, 2006.

The Barques filed multiple motions with the First Division seeking the execution of the judgment, including the issuance of a writ of possession or for execution.

The Manotoks filed an urgent motion to refer motion for possession to the SC en banc and to set the issue for oral argument.

On July 26, the court en banc promulgated a resolution accepting the cases.

In ordering that the case returned to the CA, the SC admitted that it had before sanctioned the recall of entries of judgment due to compelling reason—to provide “clarity of jurisprudence on the field” in connection with the Torrens system of registration.

The SC also observed that on its review of the records, the Barques’ claim was also weak—if the property was bought from a certain Setosta, the title should have been registered under the name of Setosta.

It said the title was registered under the name of Manotok Realty, Inc., which contradicted Barques’ claim that the Manotoks had no title to the property.

“These discrepancies highlight the error of the LRA and the Court of Appeals in acknowledging the right of the Barques to seek reconstitution of their purported Barque title. Even assuming that the petition for reconstitution should not have been dismissed due to the Manotok title, it is apparent that the Barques’ claim of ownership is exceedingly weak,” the SC said.

Another Land-scam in the making…

Hmmm… it seems that more land-scams are coming out in the open and using “technical legal-looking channels” to appear legitimate. Like the story of the “heirs of Homer Barque” and their outrageous claim to a property that is clearly not theirs, here is another story….

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view_article.php?article_id=81223As As I See It : RP stockholders may be cheated in P12-B deal

By Neal Cruz
Columnist
Inquirer

Posted date: August 08, 2007

There were two related stories in the newspapers this week on the corporate sector. The first is the disclosure by the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) of a report by the Philippine Dealing System Holdings Corp. that at least four local corporations have breached the limit set by the Philippine Constitution on the ownership of local publicly listed companies by foreign interests. These are Asian Terminals Inc., Edsa Properties Holdings Inc., Mabuhay Holdings Corp., and Philippine Racing Club Inc. (PRCI), which owns and operates the prime 26-hectare Sta. Ana racetrack in Makati City.

The second story was about the denunciation by its minority stockholders of a sellout of the PRCI to a shell corporation controlled by Malaysians. In fact, it has the appearance of another multibillion-peso scam. The assets of PRCI would be swapped with a company with only a P25-million capitalization called JTH Davies Holdings. The firm has admitted that it has been consistently in the red until 2005 and that it has disposed of all its earning assets.

A P25-million firm without assets would be swapped with the PRCI whose main asset is the 26-hectare racetrack in Makati worth P12 billion. The racetrack is the only big open space left in Makati, and you can put two Rockwell shopping centers in it. That is why land developers are salivating to get their hands on it. That property will be swapped with a shell company with a P25-million capital? There’s something very wrong here.

PRCI is a public corporation whose shares are sold in the Philippine Stock Exchange. It has many small stockholders. At least 25 percent of the shares are held by Filipino minority stockholders. Whatever happens to it is, therefore, of public interest.

The Filipinos objected to the deal for two reasons: (1) they were kept in the dark regarding the transaction, alleging that the Malaysian-led group refused to furnish them with documents and details pertaining to the transaction; and (2) the swap would have taken away from the racing club its most important earning asset, the racetrack.

The Malaysians partnered with the Cua family in PRCI. The Cuas are led by 80-year-old Santiago Sr., who also goes by the name of Cua Sing Huan. His three sons — Santiago Jr., Solomon and Simeon — also own significant holdings and important positions in the racing club. Santiago Sr. is the honorary chair, Solomon is president, Simeon is executive vice president, and Santiago Jr. is a director.

The Malaysian interest in PRCI is represented by the Kuala Lumpur-based Magnum Holdings Berhad, which has four board seats, led by Datuk Surin Upatkoon.

A look at the Internet on the backgrounds of the Cuas and Datuk Surin will send shivers climbing up and down the spines of Filipino shareholders. Santiago Cua Sr. once served as president of Wincorp Corp. Santiago Jr. served as senior executive vice president of the defunct Westmont Bank. Wincorp, it will be recalled, was involved in a giant misadventure in the late 1990s, which saw a lot of companies and business personalities go under. Westmont, on the other hand, went bankrupt and closed down. Many cases filed by investors and depositors are still being tried by the courts.

Datuk Surin Upatkoon, a.k.a. Lau Khin Koon, on the other hand, figured in the Temasek Holdings scandal that rocked the Thai business community and led to the downfall of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Datuk Surin turned out to be the major stockholder of a private firm used in the controversial takeover by Temasek Holdings of Thailand’s Shin Corp. The takeover was the fuse of a major political scandal in Bangkok. Thai politicians accused Datuk Surin of being a “Temasek stooge” or “front.”

The takeover generated overwhelming Thai anger. Thais call the Temasek takeover a “sellout” of their country’s sovereignty. They believe Datuk Surin was the key player in that deal.

The takeover of our own multibillion-peso racing club is very similar to the Temasek takeover. Is Datuk Surin about to do a Temasek on PRCI?

According to the PSE, PRCI breached the limit on foreign ownership in 2005. It was also in 2005 that PRCI led by the Malaysian group purchased the moribund JTH Davies and apparently started preparing the ground for the swap.

It would seem that the Magnum group bought more shares in PRCI in 2005, over the limit of 40 percent. No other foreign group would want to get into PRCI unless it can control the firm, either directly or through local “representatives.” Magnum may have also decided to buy more shares to fund the JTH Davies purchase. Also, Magnum may have decided that it is cheaper to breach the constitutional limit, fund the JTH purchase and then swap its shares with the prized Sta. Ana property rather than directly buy it. JTH Davies is a P25-million firm; Sta. Ana is a P12-billion property.

It is understandable that Filipino shareholders would protest. Take the Sta. Ana racetrack out of PRCI and its share prices will plunge.

There is, therefore, public interest that must be protected here to preserve confidence in the capital market. Filipino minority stockholders must also be protected from becoming victims of an emerging scam.

For most of those who breached the cap, it looks like a simple case of foreign investors wanting to cash in on infrastructure development opportunities in the Philippines. For the racing club, it looks like a scheme for a very cheap way to get hold of a prized real estate.

 
 
 
 

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
Inquirer
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

Inquirer
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
Inquirer
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?