Senate, House to probe QC land disputeBy Cynthia D. Balana, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Threatened by eviction, homeowners of middle-class subdivisions in Quezon City appealed to Congress to unmask land-grabbing syndicates and their cohorts in government.
The Senate and House of Representatives are inquiring into a Quezon City court’s decisions transferring ownership of a 24-hectare prime property to Wilfredo S. Torres, who purportedly holds spurious titles.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III filed a resolution directing the chamber’s justice committee to inquire into the Torrens Title system governing the country’s land titling following the furor over the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) rulings favoring Torres.
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. said the House justice committee, which he chairs, would look into the land case involving seven alleged spurious titles held by the 75-year-old Torres.
“Considering the allegation by the LRA (Land Registration Authority) that despite its objection as a result of its technical study that the titles are spurious, the lower court still granted reconstitution and that a lot of people and establishments are affected by the case, the committee will look into the issues,” Tupas said in a text message.
Lawyer Pastor M. Reyes Jr., homeowner of Metro Heights Subdivision, said it was about time that Congress unmasked the modus operandi of syndicates and stopped these from dealing with government agencies.
“There should be a serious investigation of how the syndicates are able to reconstitute fake titles. This should be stopped. The law should be strengthened to prevent syndicates from moving around the Land Registration Authority and Register of Deeds in cahoots with court personnel,” Reyes said in a phone interview.
Reyes said Congress should send signals to the syndicates that the loopholes in the law would be plugged.
Call on Pimentel
Reyes and homeowners from other subdivisions facing eviction called on Pimentel on Wednesday afternoon at the Senate to air their concerns over the Quezon City RTC decisions.
Also facing eviction are homeowners of Sanville Subdivisions 1, 2, 3 and 4, K-Square, K-Ville Townhomes, Arfel Homes, Sadel Court, wedding venue Fernwood Gardens, Claret Seminary, Maria Montessori School and Wilcon Builders Supply.
Then Branch 224 Judge Emilio Leachon ordered the reconveyance of the property to Torres in 1997, and the reconstitution of the transfer certificates of title (TCTs) allegedly burned in a 1988 fire at the Quezon City Hall.
His successor, Judge Tita Marilyn Payoyo-Villordon, ordered the issuance of new TCTs in Torres’ name in 2006.
In May this year, she ordered the City Assessor’s Office to transfer tax declarations covered by the new TCTs in Torres’ name.
Reyes, also the counsel for the Metro Heights homeowners’ association, said the homeowners from various subdivisions had decided to intervene in the case filed by the LRA and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to nullify two of the seven reconstituted titles issued to Torres.
Reyes and other LRA officials said that the OSG would amend the case to nullify all the seven titles. The LRA had argued that Torres’ mother title was forged.
“We will file it in a week’s time,” he said of the petition for intervention to be filed with the Quezon City RTC Branch 84.
In the House, Tupas said the inquiry was necessary to plug the loopholes in the LRA, particularly in the Office of the Register of Deeds, following a revelation by Vice President Jejomar Binay that Torres was a notorious land-grabber.
Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said the group of Torres, was on the government watch list of professional squatting syndicates.
“This is a big syndicate. It’s been there for a long time,” Tupas told the Inquirer.
Tupas said Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III was a resident of Sanville and would be invited as resource person in the House inquiry.
Tupas also said that Escudero’s son, Senator Francis “Chiz,” was interested in having a parallel investigation in the Senate.
Also to be invited are the officials of LRA, the OSG, Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, Torres and the prosecutor involved in the case.
If the committee is not satisfied with the answer of the court administrator, it would then require the appearance of the judge herself who issued the order, Tupas said.
Security beefed up
Metro Heights homeowners have beefed up security at their two gates to thwart a “Gestapo-like” raid on the subdivision by Torres’ cohorts.
“We will not take this sitting down,” Metro Heights homeowners’ association president Alfonso Miranda said in an interview Tuesday night. “We have to hold on to this property. We will not let them come in. We will keep them at bay.”
Miranda, father of Parokya ni Edgar lead singer Chito Miranda, said homeowners had been “stressed” by the attempted takeover by Torres’ group of the Wilcon Builders’ construction site and the Maria Montessori School on Visayas Avenue on Tuesday.
The Claret seminary rector, Restituto Audal Jr., said the seminary had not received any notice from the city assessors’ office about any transfer of tax declarations to Torres.
“That’s why we can’t react yet,” Audal said in an interview.
Owners of Fernwood Gardens declined to comment.