Twice to vote

Twice to vote
By: Conrado R. Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Disturbing issues hound Chief Justice Renato Corona regarding his actions in the Supreme Court even while he is standing trial at the Senate that may cost him his powerful position.

According to reports, in a landmark case involving a 30-year dispute over some 34 hectares of prime property in Quezon City, the Chief Justice in effect voted not just once but twice.

The SC early this month issued a ruling en banc that the so-called Piedad Estate, which is close to the Ayala Heights project of premier developer Ayala Land, should belong to the government.

The en banc voting was close at 8 versus 7, meaning it could have gone either way. It seems the Chief Justice himself broke the deadlock, but not with his own vote.

Together with his own vote, he supposedly also used the vote of a justice on leave for more than a month—Justice Mariano del Castillo. The ailing Del Castillo reportedly was not even able to take part in the deliberation.

In fact, all other SC documents would show that Del Castillo was on leave. In this particular case, the Chief Justice simply used the vote of the absent justice. It was the tie-breaking vote, at that.

Disturbing questions thus arise. For one, can an absent justice, who could not be present in the discussion of the issues in a case, vote on en banc decision? May the Chief Justice really take the place of an absent justice?

Is it legal, and if it is, is it the proper thing to do, particularly for a man who is supposed to be the paragon of fairness and morality in this country?

* * *

We have been following this interesting case since the 1990s and have written a number of pieces on it. It started way back when, in 1988, a mysterious fire broke out at the office of the Registry of Deeds at the Quezon City hall. The result was a flood of apparently spurious titles over pieces of property in the city.

The longtime owner of the Piedad Estate was the Manotok family, whose ancestor bought the land from the government in the 1930s. For the past 80 years or so, the family has been paying for the real estate tax on the property.

All of a sudden after the fire at city hall, two other titles appeared, purportedly as evidence of the real ownership of the property. Two other names surfaced in the land title mess, Manahan and Barque, both claiming ownership of the property.

Thus the Manotok family went to court to challenge the alleged “reconstituted” titles. The case dragged on for over two decades, going back and forth between the Court of Appeals and the SC.

This is important: The ownership of the Manotok family, who had control over the property for the longest time by sheer of possession, was never in question in the original case.

In an earlier decision, the SC negated the claims of the two groups—the Manahans and Barques. Thus, you would think that the Manotok family has won in the long-running land dispute.

For whatever mysterious reason, the SC also decided that the CA should answer a question that came from nowhere. And that was, “Did the Manotok family own the land or not?”

The CA eventually ruled that the property should go back to the government because of one reason: Some bureaucrat’s signature was missing in the documents presented by the Manotok family.

Look at that: it was the government that failed to do its job. The court in effect said that, because of such a government failure, the poor individual must be punished.

The SC in 2010 upheld the CA decision. The SC early this month ruled with finality on the case. That was the ruling in which the Chief Justice voted twice, if only to beat the dissenting opinion, penned by Senior Justice Antonio Carpio.

* * *

Horror stories are flying on the possible reason for the daring role that the impeached Renato Corona played in this landmark decision.

One story points at the group of lawyers specializing in land disputes in Quezon City. It is said that the Chief Justice could possibly owe the group favors in connection with the ongoing trial at the Senate.

Those stories are rather difficult to substantiate. The fact is they are going around business and legal circles. They are not doing the impeachment process any good.

But more than the reputation of the embattled Chief Justice, the land title system in this country can be in danger of collapse.

Thousands—if not millions—of individuals already have titles on their properties in former friar lands, seized by the Americans during their occupation of the Philippines, and then sold to various individuals.

More than half of Metro Manila used to be friar lands. The question is this: What will happen to the titles covering all those properties?

The recent SC ruling takes the force of law, and it could therefore encourage other crooks to lay claim on thousands upon thousands of hectares of property all over the country.

The decision may even open up an entire new racket in the property sector: Some syndicates would be selling land titles over certain property owned by millions of Filipinos for the past several years.

Officials of the Land Registration Authority have long admitted such a problem. It seems that, for some time now, the LRA has been trying to settle land disputes—all in Quezon City.

The cases were all handled by a certain group of lawyers associated with an organization.

Is Manahan dead? Wife remarried

October 15, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They also have a Torrens title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us wait for the ruling.

Two claimants have no proof of ownership

October 15, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does the Supreme Court go from here?

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

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

They filed two motions. Both motions were denied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.


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.

Ownership since 1919

The lawful authorities should really go after these land-grabbing scammers. The Barque family have obviously forged their title to the land and therefore have forged a public document. And who are Rosendo Manahan and Felicitas Manahan? They should also be investigated for they claim to own the land which they have never set foot upon and therefore have forged land titles too.

Ownership since 1919

The controversy over the 34-hectare prime property owned and occupied by the heirs of Severino Manotok since 1919 is far from over.

After the heirs of Homer Barque sought reconstitution on the ground that the original title was lost in a fire that hit the register of deeds office in the Quezon City hall, came the Manahans who have a similar claim but for a different reason.

If official records must be the basis for final awarding of ownership, it is clear that the land – formerly friar land and later identified as the Piedad Estate – belongs to the Manotoks.

Records submitted to the courts show that the Manotoks have been in possession of the land since 1919. They have been paying taxes on the property. They have introduced improvements and had been left alone in peace until the records of the register of deeds were burned.

That’s when the heirs of Barque claimed they own the land but they never set foot on the property. Least of all, had it guarded to prevent an invasion by squatters.

The original title of the Manotoks lost to the fire in 1988 was reconstituted in 1991. The title is identified as RT-22481.

Can another reconstituted title sought by the heirs of Homer Barque and the Manahans be issued on the same property? Only the Court of Appeals can answer the question. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the CA for fact-finding although the law is clear that judicial reconstitution is a sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court.

Weird case

The heirs of Barque first sought reconstitution of title with the Land Registration Administration. The petition was denied but later approved. The LRA claimed that title of the Manotoks as “sham and spurious.”

The Manotoks filed a motion for reconsideration. Denied.

Based on the LRA’s denial of the MR, the Manotoks and the Barques separately went to the Court of Appeals on petitions for review.

The petitions were dismissed separately by the CA.

On motion for reconsideration of the heirs of Homer Barque, the two divisions of the CA rendered identical amended decisions ordering the cancellation of the title of the Manotoks and directing the LRA to reconstitute the title in favor of the Barques.

I had thought that the CA would consolidate the two petitions. It did not. But it rendered identical decisions.

First time I ever heard two divisions of the Court of Appeals making identical rulings. The justices in two separate divisions happened to have the same mind.

The Manahans’ cause

The Manahans filed an intervention in September 2006. They claimed that they are the owners of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, the same property occupied by the Manotoks since 1919.

They claimed that their successors in interest, Vicente Manahan, bought the property from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and were issued Sales Certificate 511 covering Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate. They fortified their argument with the claim that the Land Management Bureau issued a Deed of Conveyance based on Assignment of Sales Certificate 511.

The Manotoks told the Court of Appeals that the Deed of Conveyance could not be issued because there is an existing certificate in the name of the Manotoks.

Their lawyer, a respected former member of the Supreme Court and considered a legal scholar, told the Court of Appeals that the title of the Manotoks can be traced – as there are records so proving – from the purchase of Zacarias Modesto, Regina Moreno, and Feliciano Villanueva of the same Lot 823 from the Philippine Government.

Are we now saying there were two buyers of the same lot 823? The Manahans claim their title is based on a Deed of Conveyance issued on April 17, 2000. On the other hand the title of the Manotoks came from a purchase of the same land by Zacarias Modesto, Regina Moreno, and Feliciano Villanueva from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in 1919.

The Deed of Conveyance was issued 81 years after Modesto, Moreno and Villanueva bought the property from the government. This is mind boggling.

Is conveyance vital?

The Manahans claim that the title of the Manotoks is fictitious and spurious because, unlike them, they were not issued a deed of conveyance.

The lawyer of the Manotoks dispute this claim. He cited a long series of jurisprudence “that in the sale of friar lands, the purchaser, even before payment of the full price and before execution of the final deed of conveyance, is considered by law as the actual owner of the lot purchased under the obligation to pay in full the purchase price, the role or position of the government being that of a mere lien holder of mortgage.”

Following this jurisprudence, it is not the deed of conveyance that entitles one to ownership.

The lawyer explained to the Court that “while it is true that the government reserves title to any parcel sold until full payment, this must refer to the bare naked title.

“The equitable and beneficial title is transferred to the purchaser the moment he paid the first installment and was given a certificate of sale. Indeed, it is well-settled a deed of conveyance is not necessary given that ownership over the land vests upon the issuance of a certificate of sale.”

The fatal mistake

What to many lawyers was a fatal mistake in this case is the acceptance by the Court of Appeals of the appeal of the Manotoks and the heirs of Homer Barque.
Such acceptance denied the regional trial court its original and exclusive jurisdiction over judicial reconstitution.

At the risk of being cited for contempt, I dare say that it might have been more prudent for the appellate court to rule that it had no jurisdiction over the dispute to precisely because of a law that provides the RTC the exclusive and original jurisdiction over judicial reconstitution of land titles.

In the end, the Supreme Court en banc remanded the case to the CA, not for a ruling but to determine the facts of the case and submit a recommendation to the Highest Tribunal.

In effect, the case landed in the CA twice. First on appeal from the LRA which was first denied and later affirmed.

Now we have the same CA ordered by the Supreme Court to determine the facts. In effect, the CA took over – in fact, usurped the functions of the regional trial court which, it must be repeated, has exclusive and original jurisdiction.

MAYSILO: “Mother of all land titling scandals” part 2

‘Mother of all land titling scandals’ (2)
By Neal Cruz
Last updated 02:43am (Mla time) 09/14/2007
(Continued from last Wednesday)

MANILA, Philippines — Claimant Jose Dimson was also able to get a favorable but highly questionable decision from the Court of First Instance of Rizal which awarded “whatever remains of Lots 25-A, 26, 27, 28 and 29 of the Maysilo Estate” to him.

Subsequently, Lot 26 found its way into the hands of CLT Realty Development Corp. But as Lot 26 is owned by the Manotoks through expropriation proceedings, they have questioned the awarding of the lot to Dimson and subsequently to CLT.

Instituting civil cases for recovery of possession of his property against AIA and the Manotoks, Dimson was able to get the Caloocan RTC, in 1993, to order AIA and the Manotoks to vacate the property. The basis of the order was the presentation by Dimson of a copy of OCT 994 with an earlier date than the OCT 994 submitted by AIA. Dimson’s copy of OCT 994 was dated April 19, 1917 while AIA’s was dated May 3, 1917.

Following a decision in MWSS vs CA, in which the Supreme Court said that where there are two TCTs over the same land the earlier date prevails, the Caloocan RTC upheld Dimson’s title.

The Court of Appeals sustained the lower court’s decision, and even the Supreme Court, on a petition for review, upheld the Court of Appeals saying it is bound by the findings of fact of the lower court because it is not a trier of facts. But what if the facts are wrong, as in this case? OCT 994 dated April 19, 1917, which was upheld by the lower court, was found out later to be fake.

The Manotoks have also raised the following arguments:

(1) OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917 is the real OCT as it has been upheld by the LRA, the DOJ, the Senate and the Caloocan Register of Deeds. And now with the Supreme Court itself dismissing the two registrars of deeds who illegally changed the date of registration of Dimson’s title to April 19, 1917, it is clear which claimant really owns the land.

(2) The Manotoks have a superior right of ownership because their title emanates from the Republic of the Philippines itself in whom paramount title to the land has been vested by expropriation. And even if the title by expropriation is discounted, the Manotok title can still be traced to OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917.

(3) The issue of whether or not only one valid OCT 994 was issued is of transcendental importance of which the Supreme Court should take cognizance because it involves a total of 1,660 hectares of prime land in Caloocan, Malabon and Quezon City where now stand various commercial buildings, high-rise condos, residential houses, schools and public buildings.

(4) The MWSS case does not apply to the present case because no pronouncement on the validity of Dimson’s petition before the Caloocan CFI was made by the Court because AIA was not a party in the MWSS case and the issues raised in the MWSS case are different.

(5) Dimson’s title was irregularly issued because it was made without the presentation of the owner’s duplicate TCT of the transferor (Section 55, Land Registration Act) and corresponding subdivision plan approved by the Bureau of Lands or the LRA.

(6) It is highly improbable that Dimson’s title came from OCT 994 because as early as 1920, the Maysilo Estate had already been partitioned and distributed to the different owners as shown in the cases of Bustamante vs Tuazon (47 PR 433), Dizon vs Rivera (48 PR 996), Republic vs Gonzales (94 PR 696) and Garcia vs CA (35 SCRA 380).

(7) In at least three cases pending in different courts, two in the Supreme Court and one in the Court of Appeals, the title of Dimson has been established to be spurious, nonexistent, fraudulent and of impossible origin (Phil-Ville Development and Housing Corp. vs CLT Realty Development Corp.-CA-GR CV 52606, Feb. 27, 2003; Alfonso vs Office of the President and Phil-Ville Development and Housing Corp.-GR 150091; and Republic of the Philippines vs Lilia Sevilla and Jose Seelin-CA GR CV 68299).

The Supreme Court will decide on the fate of some 300,000 individuals who have been in peaceful possession of their properties within the Maysilo Estate as well as major government institutions that have certain legal rights over the estate. The major institutions affected include government lands (450 hectares) from the Bonifacio Monument to portions of the North Expressway up to Edsa and MacArthur Highway; private institutions like the Manila Central University, De La-Salle Araneta University, and University of the East, private commercial buildings like the Ever Grand Central, Araneta Square, Bonifacio Market, Eternal Gardens Memorial Park and at least 64 barangays in Caloocan alone.

Already, unscrupulous groups have been threatening and harassing legitimate dwellers, property owners and taxpayers within the estate.

But the Supreme Court decision on the registrars of deeds should be enough basis for the tribunal to put an end once and for all to the legal battle and uncertainties over the Maysilo Estate. It is easy to determine which of the two claimants have a better right to the property. Dimson’s claim has no legal standing whatsoever, as the Supreme Court itself has declared that the OCT from which he is basing his claim to ownership is a spurious, falsified document.

It is now obvious that Dimson and those claiming under him have no legal basis to claim ownership of the Maysilo Estate. They should not be allowed to wreak havoc on our land titling system.

Another Landscam in Quezon City — Fairview?

There was a “Paid Advertisement” that appeared on Page 5 of the September 5, 2007 issue of the Philippine Star. This is what it states:


Leaders of the real estate industry expressed alarm over a land row threatening to divest long-time lot owners of North Fairview Park Subdivision in Novaliches of their titles in what appears to be another land grab case.

The Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations (CREBA), in a statement issued by its founder and chairman Manuel M. Serrano, said: “CREBA’s attention has recently been called to a decision by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City ordering the Register of Deeds to issue a Transfer Certificate of Title over some 12 hectares of land in the North Fairview Park Subdivision, despite the fact that this land is already covered by existing titles in the name of the subdivision lot buyers.”

“With this information of which they have apparently been heretofore unaware, the subdivision lot owners are strongly advised to immediately take formal action to protect their legitimate interests. For it is only through vigilance that land-grabbing attempts, now reaching epidemic proportions, may be curbed.

Records of the case reveal that a certain Canillo in 1987 applied with the court of issuance of a Decree of registration, which the Land Registration Authority (LRA) formally resisted as this would result in “duplication of titles over the same property”, considering that the land had already been earlier Decreed and covered by existing valid titles.

The LRA also called the court’s attention to its lack of jurisdiction over the case, since Canillo’s application for registration was not published at the instance of the LRA as required under the Property Registration Decree, due to Canillo’s non-compliance with the requirements for publication, among which is submission of a survey plan duly approved by the Bureau of Lands.

A recent news report indicates that a complaint has been filed with the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission for the dismissal of the LRA Administration on account of the LRA’s refusal to heed the court order for issuance of a Decree.

To our mind, the LRA should instead be commended for exercising that degree of cirumspection essential for the protection of legitimate Torrens title holders in this case.

We urge the Quezon City Register of Deeds to follow the LRA’s lead, at least until all the relevant facts and issues shall have been fully ventilated and resolved in a court imbued with proper jurisdiction, and all affected parties shall have been heard in accordance with the Constitutional requirement of due process.

As it is, CREBA’s review of the case records reveal badges of fraud, misrepresentations, irregularities and denial of due process.

The owners of the properties adjoining Canillo’s claimed land were never notitfied as required by law; the trial in its entirety was conducted ex-parte; The documentary and testimonial evidence submitted by Canillo in support of his claim, and even his application and pleadings, were fraught with inconsistencies and falsities which a court would not have failed to appreciate had affected parties been allowed to controvert and scrutinize the same in a trial conducted with utmost impartiality and transparency.

It is bad enought that the public’s faith in Torrens titles has been severely eroded by wide-spread suspicion of participation by government personnel in the proliferation of fake titles, it would be infinitely worse if courts of law would, wittingly or unwittingly, allow the proceedings to be used in the perpetration of fraud.”

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