Computerization of land titling on track – LRA

Computerization of land titling on track – LRA
By Reinir Padua (The Philippine Star) Updated August 30, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

MANILA, Philippines – The computerization of land titling in the Philippines is now 52 percent done and is expected to minimize land disputes and reduce litigation of such cases, an official of the Land Registration Authority said.

LRA deputy administrator Ronald Ortile said the agency has had difficulty in curbing the activities of syndicates faking land titles, claiming that they are in cahoots with corrupt Registers of Deeds.

“Under the program, all our regional offices will be connected to the central office through a dedicated line, so it will not be vulnerable to hacking. That will allow anyone to cross-check documents, like original titles with the owner’s duplicate,” he said.

Ortile cited that the Manotok Compound controversy arose because the records of the Quezon City Register of Deeds were destroyed when a fire gutted a part of the city hall in 1988, forcing the agency to reconstitute titles. The family of the late Severino Manotok IV managed to have their title to the 34-hectare Manotok Compound reconstituted by the LRA, but two other parties claimed that they were the owners of the land.

“But we are now converting our documents into electronic data which will be equipped with security features so we can easily detect if a document is genuine or spurious,” Ortile said.

According to Ortile, there had been some internal resistance to computerization. He cited that in Marikina City, housing loan applicants complained that it took months for personnel of the Register of Deeds to release certified copies of titles when it only used to take a few days under the manual system.

An LRA official also initially rejected the application for reconstitution of one of the claimants in the Manotok Compound case as the land was already registered to the Manotok family. But this was overruled for unknown reasons based on legal points that were later shown to be erroneous or misapplied by no less than Justice Antonio Carpio, when he heard the case as an associate justice in 2005. This is still pending in the Supreme Court.

“The Land Registration Authority will, sooner than we think, have a revamp that will rock the Registrars of Deed’s off their seats,” Ortile said, noting that 87 of the 168 Registries of Deeds are now fully automated and the agency expects to complete the program by November 2011.

“The 5-phase program began in 2007. We are already in the 3rd phase. It is being implemented through a build-operate-own scheme so it is being undertaken at no cost to the government,” he said.

Delfin Hallare Jr., president of the Land Registration System Inc. that is implementing the computerization, said the project may even be completed ahead of schedule, sometime in the middle of next year. He said the project, worth P2.7 billion, “is still in transition period and its benefits may only be fully realized when it is completed.”


Editorial : Holes in DoJ

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: January 08, 2009

The jury is still out on the case of the alleged bribery involving the “Alabang Boys” but already it seems clear that the Department of Justice (DoJ) has some housekeeping to do.The most glaring instance of irregularity is the preparation on official DoJ stationery by Felisberto Verano, the defendants’ counsel, of a release order for the three young men, for signature by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. This is of course anomalous, since such orders should be prepared only by government lawyers.

Verano explained this bit of legal exuberance as prompted by the Christmas spirit. “I was trying to catch the Christmas season and I waited and waited and waited,” Verano said, after he caused the draft order to be sent to Gonzalez on Dec. 23. “Unfortunately, he refused to sign it.”

That the draft order even reached the justice secretary’s desk (literally) is cause for concern. We have long known that, whether out of bureaucratic sloth or individual avarice, lawyers of involved parties have sometimes ended up writing official decisions: court rulings, prosecutors’ resolutions, release orders. Verano’s transparent effort shows us how it is done.

He used long experience to accumulate favors; this, for instance, is how he was able to obtain official DoJ letterheads.

He used the convenience of a high-level connection to facilitate the paper work. In this case, Verano used his relationship with Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, a fellow member of a law school fraternity, to his advantage. This convenience works even though, as in this case, Blancaflor was not in his office and did not have a chance to look at the document. All it takes is the cynicism to insert the draft order into “the proper channels.”

Not least, he also used the ambiguity inherent in language. When Blancaflor’s secretary called him to ask what the document was about, Verano simply replied that he and Gonzalez had already discussed it.

Indeed they did, but Gonzalez has told reporters that in that discussion he told Verano that he would not sign any release orders. In other words, Verano used the most tenuous connection to reality (that he had spoken with Gonzalez) to assure Blancaflor’s secretary that his document was in order.

It was, of course, no such thing. Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, who signed the original DoJ resolution on Dec. 2 already incorporating the release order for the three young men, called Verano’s maneuver “not normal.” Verano himself explained it in terms anyone dealing with a corrupt organization would find familiar: “I [was] just facilitating the order. Maybe I was a little bit overzealous.”

The justice department also seems to have tolerated a culture of confusion. The answers of DoJ lawyers to questions at the House committee hearings about the procedures involved in the release of suspected illegal drug users and pushers have been less than illuminating. Under the Manual of Prosecutors, the chief state prosecutor has the authority to conclude the resolution of a case. Gonzalez, however, had issued a department order requiring his personal approval of the resolution of important cases, especially those involving drugs and smuggling cases. In Gonzalez’s own words: “If it is a drug or smuggling case, if the punishment is more than five years, and you dismiss a case of that nature, you must get my imprimatur.”

Under questioning, however, state prosecutors like John Resado described a work culture where the justice secretary’s circular providing for automatic review was either honored in the breach or interpreted laxly.

This confusing state of affairs allows a state prosecutor to act on the assumption that a resolution signed by the chief state prosecutor is effective immediately even while it is awaiting automatic review.

None of this is to say that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s performance is flawless, and that therefore every single arrest it makes must end in conviction. But the many loopholes in DoJ processes help explain why the burden of responsibility, in this high-profile case, rests largely on the Department of Justice.

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Inquirer Opinion / Editorial
Editorial : Greed
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: December 27, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has put his finger on what has eluded the grasp of political leaders and economic experts seeking to find the reason for the financial meltdown that sparked the global recession. “If people look only to their interest, our world will certainly fall apart,” the Pope said in his traditional Christmas Day message. The warning was part of his prayer for people to come together to address the world’s most pressing problems, from war and terrorism to poverty and violations of human rights and dignity.
In his “Message to the City and to the World,” the Pope prayed: “Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking, wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity.” But in a world that has fallen into a deepening economic recession, it is his denunciation of human greed and selfishness that carries a strong and special resonance. For greed is the root of the economic woes now afflicting most nations all over the globe.
In the United States and most of the developed world, it was greed that brought about the collapse of major financial institutions and sent thousands of individuals to bankruptcy: The institutional greed for profits that made banks and other financial institutions overlook even the most obvious risks. The personal greed of those at the helm who continued to receive astronomical salaries and allowances and scandalous perks even as their financial houses and companies crumbled. The criminal greed of so many financial advisers and brokers like Bernard Madoff who devised various investment schemes built on nothing more than promises of quick and easy profits. The reckless greed of investors who fell easy prey to scammers, of home buyers whose incomes could not support their mortgage payments, and of consumers who bought much more than what they could afford.
It is a bit different here in the Philippines, where financial institutions have not been shaken by scandals. Instead greed is in evidence almost in everything the government touches. Wherever there is a law to be enacted or enforced, wherever a permit is needed, wherever a contract is to be awarded, wherever a signature is required, wherever a project is undertaken, greed almost invariably trumps duty, honesty and public service. Greed is what keeps Congress from giving up their pork barrel. Greed is behind the biggest scandals that have rocked the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, from Jose Pidal to the fertilizer scam to the ZTE contract.
And there is no moderating greed, especially in high places, as Romulo Neri probably knows by now. The only change, in fact, is that greed has grown and spread so that now the country is ranked among the world’s most corrupt nations.
Worse, there is no relief in sight, given the ineffectiveness of the institutions and the officials that are tasked with fighting the corruption caused by unbridled greed. We will need more than prayers to exorcise this demon that is leading the nation to perdition.
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Cost of Corruption


Cost of corruption

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 02/12/2008

The failed attempt of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration to prevent Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., former president of Philippine Forest Corp., from testifying on the $329-million National Broadband Network project has once again focused public attention on the perennial problem of corruption.

Graft and corruption has been a fact of national life since post-Liberation days. Almost every administration has had its big and sensational graft cases. At every presidential election, one major issue that is always raised is graft and corruption. Opposition leaders denounce the graft being committed by the administration, but once they take over the reins of government, they also commit graft. It’s just a case of different sets of people pigging out at the trough that is the national treasury at different times.

Economist Alejandro Lichauco has said the Philippines is perennially in crisis because of “the mortal mix of corruption and poverty and a consequent loss of popular confidence in government and the electoral process as instruments of change.” The fatal mix, he said, is poverty so massive and so intense as to have degenerated into a problem of mass hunger, and corruption that is as massive as the massive poverty. A deadly mix, indeed, that is killing tens of thousands of people.

Starting with the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, the Philippine crisis has been characterized not only by corruption and poverty but also by human rights abuses and a culture of impunity. Bruce Van Voorhis, a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission, said that these aspects of the life of the nation are linked: “People are poor to a large extent because of widespread corruption; those who wield political power violate people’s rights to attain and maintain that power; a lack of judicial punishment in the courts ensures impunity that permits corruption and human rights violations to continue. The cycle has sadly repeated itself for years.”

Corruption retards economic and social development, lowers the quality of public services and infrastructure and raises the prices of goods and services. In all these aspects, it is the poor who suffer the most because they cannot avail themselves, for instance, of the services of private doctors and hospitals or buy expensive goods. In some cases, corruption literally kills: for instance, a ship sinks and hundreds of people die because a coast guard officer was bribed to allow the overloaded, non-seaworthy vessel to leave port.

In 2000, the World Bank estimated that corruption was costing the Philippine government $47 million (about P1.92 billion) a year or a massive $48 billion (P1.968 trillion) over the 20-year period through to 1997. Think how many kilometers of roads and bridges and how many schoolhouses and hospitals that money could have built. Think of the other public infrastructure and public services that could have been improved with that kind of money. But all that public money went into the private pockets of corrupt, greedy government officials.

Graft and corruption flourishes because of the culture of impunity. Have you heard of any big fish being convicted of corruption and plunder, except deposed president Joseph Estrada? Yes, Estrada was convicted of plunder, but he did not spend even a day in a real prison. Only six weeks after his conviction, he was pardoned by President Arroyo. Was that any way to set an example for the other grafters in government and to would-be grafters and plunderers?

And so the graft and corruption continues. But from time to time a ray of light pierces the darkness and gives the nation hope that we might yet be able to start punishing the grafters. Such a ray was Lozada, whose courageous and forthright testimony at the Senate may yet save the nation from the grip of scandalous, graft-ridden deals.

But whistleblowers like Lozada cannot, just by themselves, ensure a successful campaign against corruption. Graft and corruption has become so ingrained in the national life that it is considered “normal.” Even people like Lozada are ready to consider a 20-percent “commission” on government deals acceptable. But that should not be acceptable. A 20-percent “commission” is an illegal and immoral “tax” on a poor and overburdened people. They have to realize this, watch every government transaction that may be tainted with graft, and denounce officials who are stealing taxpayers’ money — their money.