POSTSCRIPT / December 15, 2015 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Check titles of condo sellers before buying

SOME courts are being used, inadvertently or otherwise, by landgrabbers and syndicates to validate fake land titles, according to activist and author Daniel Frianeza during his book launching at a media forum in a Quezon City hotel last week.

He explained in his 110-page book “The Torrens System: A Gateway for the Flooding of Fake Land Titles” how ignorance of the law and technicalities involving the Torrens land title registration system has led to the proliferation of fake titles.

In the same forum, Virgilio Pablico, legal department chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, cited two big malls in Quezon City whose title to their sprawling sites, he said, are under question.

The ownership or titling issue is becoming more complicated by the day, he said, because condominium units rising on the mall sites are being snapped up by unsuspecting buyers and speculators.

The government may have to step into the legal mess in a Duterte-type of intervention to protect buyers, property owners, investors and the integrity of the Torrens land title system.

Frianeza said the existence of fake titles was discovered during the term of President Diosdado Macapagal when Antonio Noblejas was the land registration commissioner and Jolly Bugarin the national bureau of investigation director.

The issuance of Original Certificate of Titles (OCTs) from 01 to 100,000 of no probative origin was then exposed. These fake OCTs spawned millions of dubious Transfer of Certificate of Titles (TCTs) nationwide that are still being used, he said.

The Torrens system, named after Sir Robert R. Torrens who was a customs commissioner in South Australia, was adopted in the Philippines on Feb. 1, 1903. It required the registration of a titled property.

Frianeza said land grabbers and criminal syndicates were able to secure Certificates of Title even without a title or ownership of the land. He cited as example the controversial Piedad Estate purportedly registered on March 12, 1912, but which documentation he said did not happen.

He also cited questions involving the Cadastral Act 2259 imposed on Feb. 11, 1913, which is another secret land confiscation by the government in conjunction with the 1935 Constitution, vesting the Spanish King’s ownership of the whole archipelago in favor of the State.

The justice system was also blamed by the book author for the proliferation of fake property titles involving judges who, he said, failed to consider the substantial facts or documentary evidence of the plaintiff in handing down decisions.

2 malls squat on land without titles

LAWYER Pablico of the CIDG, meanwhile, described two malls in Quezon City as being “squatters” on the prime land where they have been doing brisk business.

Pablico, btw, was one of the members of the Board of Inquiry chaired by Police Director Benjamin Magalong who were given the PNP Special Service Medal for their exemplary investigation of the Mamasapano massacre of 44 members of the elite PNP Special Action Force.

He said his investigation of the two malls included examination of documents obtained from appropriate government agencies, including court records showing that the titles of the land where the malls now stand were faked.

The police criminal investigator said his probe crossed the path of Frianeza who was also looking into the proliferation of land titles of dubious authenticity. Their research took them to the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the courts, and other agencies.

He said: “Mr. Frianeza wrote me a letter asking my help about these fake land titles, so I told my superior General Magalong, who gave his permission.”

Calling the mall operators squatters, Pablico said that the mall magnates have not even paid for the land where they have put up businesses.

One mall operator sitting on land supposedly reserved as open, green public park areas is just leasing the land allegedly owned by National Housing Authority.

NHA leases out land not its own

BIG PROBLEM is that OCT No. 735 being held by NHA for the land has already been declared void.

One of the reasons why it was voided was that its decree of registration number 17431 pertains to a property in far-away Mauban, Quezon, and not in Quezon City where the mall stands. The discrepancy is too glaring to miss.

But why do administration officials, particularly those of the NHA, have the gall to lease or dispose of land that the agency does not own? What were the material considerations for such an anomalous multimillion-peso transaction?

In the case of another giant mall, Pablico said the operators are reportedly still looking (or pretending to look) for the lawful owner of the lot covered by OCT No. 735. How does one pay the owner who is still unknown?

Frianeza said a book on the subject published by DENR shows that all OCTs covering the whole of Quezon City had been declared null and void based on a decision under LRC/Civil Case No. 3957-P. It allegedly identified a Don Anacleto Madrigal Acopiado as the lawful owner.

While he has documents, Pablico said he has no legal personality to file charges, because he is not the aggrieved true owner. He opined that the owner does not have the financial capacity to initiate and pursue a suit.

On the part of the mall owners, the best stance presumably is to keep quiet while looking for or buying a way out.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 15, 2015)

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