Aquino’s second cousin mired in illegal land titling case
ILOILO CITY, Philippines—President Aquino’s second cousin, businessman Ramon Cojuangco Jr., is among the property owners in Boracay who could be held criminally liable after they were issued what were said to be illegal land titles.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office for internal audit and anti-corruption confirmed that Cojuangco, owner of the posh Asya Premier Suites in Boracay, is among the 21 property owners who were issued homestead patents covering 31 lots with a total area of 9.75 hectares on the 1,032-hectare island-resort.
The DENR has declared the issuance of the 31 titles as invalid and has relieved six of its personnel in Aklan and Boracay who are facing administrative charges for alleged involvement in the irregular issuance of the homestead patents.
A homestead patent is a mode of acquiring a title for public lands areas categorized as alienable and disposable and which are used for agricultural purposes.
However, the issuance of homestead patents which were commercial or residential but declared as agricultural was irregular.
Questions in the categorization and declaration of the land and the issuance of homestead patents effectively deprived the government of nearly P1 billion in revenues from the sale of the properties if these were disposed through sales patents.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer called the office of Cojuangco thrice, the latest of which was on Tuesday, but he was said to be out of the country. His office did not respond to repeated requests for his side of the issue or a statement from his legal counsel.
Cojuangco was issued Homestead Patent No. P-060412-09-4039 dated Nov. 13, 2009, for a property covering 9,473 square meters in Barangay (village) Manoc-Manoc in Boracay, according to a copy of the title obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The patent issued by Antonio Luis, then officer-in-charge of the Provincial Environment and Resources Office of Aklan, was officially entered into the provincial Registry of Deeds on Nov. 17, 2009.
Aside from Cojuangco, those issued homestead patents were Andro Gabay, Milagros Tiaga, Dolores Latoy, Luna Villaruz, Juvy Gross, Jocelyn Sualog, Naomi Sastre, Haide de los Santos, Edito Umambong, Araceli Gabay, Rosemarie Bettschen, Nora Castillo, Belinda Martinez, Amalia Solis, Nelly Mancera, Geovanni Pascual, Jean Castillo, Nestoria Sacapano, Dolores Sacapano and Alicia Sacapano.
DENR Regional Executive Director Julian Amador said on Tuesday that the agency would file a petition before courts to nullify the patents.
Aside from filing charges against the DENR personnel involved in the alleged irregularities, those issued the titles could also be charged criminally.
The investigation conducted by the DENR’s office for internal audit and anti-corruption showed that all 31 titles had irregularities and should not have been issued to the petitioners.
Of the 31, eighteen were properties used for commercial and residential purposes while at least 15 had encroached on road easement. At least five property owners were issued more than one homestead patent when the law allowed only one.
The homestead patents were issued to lots ranging from 58 square meters to 14,748 sq m located in Barangay (villages of) Balabag and Manoc-Manoc from November 13, 2009 to December 8, 2010. All the titles were already registered with the provincial registry of deeds.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.