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SC lets case vs Church lands continue

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INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila has failed to stop the government plan to take over a four-hectare property in Obando, Bulacan, that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) found to be part of public domain.

The Supreme Court, in a decision dated Nov. 12, reversed the Court of Appeals’ grant of a motion to dismiss sought by the archdiocese and ordered the Malolos City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to proceed with the case.

The archdiocese claimed the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case filed by the DENR-Region III office since the Church ownership of the land was affirmed by the Court of First Instance (CFI) of  Bulacan in 1915.

The archdiocese pointed out that the government, in pushing for the reversion of the land to public ownership, was actually annulling the CFI’s judgment.

The Supreme Court’s Second Division—chaired by Justice Antonio Carpio with Justices Estela Perlas Bernabe, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Perez as members—were unanimous that the RTC did not commit a grave abuse of discretion.

“The RTC may properly take cognizance of reversion suits which do not call for an annulment of judgment [of a land registration case]. Actions for cancellation of title and reversion … fall under the jurisdiction of the RTC. Consequently, no grave abuse of discretion can be attributed to the RTC in denying [the archdiocese’s] motion to dismiss,” the Supreme Court  said in the decision penned by Bernabe.

In January 2007, the DENR filed in the Malolos RTC a civil case for the cancellation of titles and reversion against several defendants, including the archdiocese which appeared to be the registered owner of the eight parcels of land with a total area of 3.979 hectares in Barangay Panghulo, Obando.

The original certificate of title for the land was issued in November 1917 by the Bulacan register of deeds upon the order of the then General Land Registration Office, which cited the September 1915 CFI decision.

The lots were sold in 1934 to other defendants by the archdiocese, which could be held liable for selling land it did not own if the civil case pushes through.

The DENR, in its complaint, said the 1915 decision did not pertain to the eight lots. The eight lots were the same lots that were part of the “unclassified lands of public domain” certified to by the Bureau of Forest Development in 1983, but declared alienable and disposable the following year.

Obando was part of the Manila archdiocese until 1961, when the diocese of Malolos covering the entire province of Bulacan was created. The lots in question are now a residential area, and the association of the current occupants, Samahang Kabuhayang San Lorenzo KKK Inc., was admitted by the RTC as a party-intervenor in the case.

During the pretrial, the archdiocese filed a motion to dismiss, questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC over the complaint. It alleged that the action for reversion of title was essentially one for annulment of judgment of the CFI, acting as a land registration court, hence beyond the competence of the RTC to act upon.

In January 2009, however, the RTC denied the archdiocese’s motion, saying it was premature. The RTC said it still needed to find out first what the basis of the CFI’s original 1915 decision was and whether it contravened earlier decisions. The lower court found that another case, decided in December 1914, awarded the lots to the archdiocese.

The archdiocese elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals, which in 2010 granted its motion to dismiss. The DENR appealed to the Supreme Court.


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Tags: Bulacan , Church , DENR , environment , Supreme Court


  • UrHONOR

    EXCELLENT DECISION, SC.  Woe to damaso!

  • mangtom

    The government ought to dig all the titles of church-owned property and verify their legality. Kung may mga hindi legal, dapat ibalik sa government at maaring ibenta sa mga tao o ibigay sa mga squatters para sa relocation nila. This will also give work to lawyers and others that have anything to do with land registration.

  • Guest

    This RC church is ippokrito (not per se) when it comes to land reform. They say, land should be distributed but when it comes to their own land they use every possible legal measure to prevent their land being taken by GPH. That’s why sometimes you cannot always take the RC Church seriously.

    (Another example is their anti-mining stance. If they are so against mining then why do they use I pads or like that in their masses? Aren’t they aware that materials in the devices come from mining? Or where, do they think, those came from? From the sky?)

    • tarikan

      And they have all sorts of metal, gold, brass, silver, what have you in their altars and devices. 

  • randyaltarejos

    A complex issue to settle, perhaps. Again, separation of Church and State will be invoked. But does it also include public domains that had been appended as properties of the Church? Did the seller pay capital gains tax for this transaction?

  • Hey_Dudes

    I am betting not a single tax has been paid for these lots by this meddling church.

  • eirons1043

    At last nagkaroon din ng good news ang aksyon ng SC.  Pero mas good news kung ang final decision eh pabor sa gobyerno at hindi sa buwisit na Catholic Church na gusto eh puro libre.

  • tarikan

    The RC Church is one of the biggest landholders in the Philippines. I think it would be wise to create an ad hoc office under the Bu. of Lands to fine tooth their landholdings. The authorities could start on those Spanish Land Titles. 

  • dukaponte

    Dapat ipamigay na lang iyon sa mga tao na nakatira doon. Di ba iyon ang gusto ng simbahan sa mga lupa gaya ng hacienda luisita na ipamigay sa mahihirap? Bakit kung sa simbahan ang lupa ayaw nilang ipamigay?

  • Bengatibo

    Ngayon napatunayan na rin na land graber and simbahang katoliko ni Padre Damaso!!! Ganyan ang gawain nila mula pa nuong panahon ni Rizal. Pagbayarin na rin nang TAX ang simbahang katoliko hanggang nakikialam pa sa politika.

    • noyab

       pati INC, isama na sa pagbayarin ng tax. masyado na marami ang pera nila at ngayon may stadium pa…para saan yun….abuso na mga Manaloista,….

  • ever green

    why do they need land for??? kala ko ba ang kingdom nila ay nasa langit????

  • joboni96

    si padre damaso
    hanggang ngayon
    landgrabber pa rin

    ang kita sa mga iyan
    imbes na gamitin sa pilipino

    pinapadala sa vatican
    kapalit siguro ang pagka cardinal

    tax all church lands
    used commercially

  • UrHONOR

    SA halip na matuwa ang TNL na simbahan ni Damasing at ang lupa ay mapapapunta sa bayan, bubunuin pa ng hanggang sa huling sentimo ang kaso na alam-na-alam na naman ng lahat ay galing din sa mamamayan ng bayan na sa pamamagitan ng hokus-pokus na pangungusap ang pobreng mga inosenteng mistulang mga tupa ay nahubaran ng kanilang kayamanan.

    HINDI pa ba sapat yong bilyong-bilyong nasubi ng mga naka-sayang puti na sa kasalukuyan ay masayang-masayang namamayapa sa duyan ng financial institutions na minu-minuto ay kumikita ng interes?  Buti pa yong German shepherd at nababahagian hindi lang ng kita kundi pati parte ng principal.  Sarap ng buhay ng naka-sayang puti…..walang kahirap-hirap…..konting kapitolyo lang at bersikulo, kwarta na!  



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