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[ Cebu City ] Court ruling to save Capitol titles: Bolo

Sunday, August 23, 2009 [ ]

CITING a Supreme Court (SC) decision in 2007, Cebu Provincial Board (PB) Member Juan Bolo yesterday expressed confidence the titles of the Balili property that the Province bought cannot be reverted.

In a case involving Silot Bay in Liloan, the SC decided that the government could not revert the land to the public domain even if its free patent “was secured by fraud, since the same land already passed on to purchasers in good faith.”

The SC decided in favor of “innocent buyers” and protected their titles.

This, said Bolo, is just like what happened to the Province. It paid P98 million for a 25-hectare property with clean titles, but was not told—by the environment department or anyone else—that part of the property should not have been titled. At least 80,124 square meters are underwater and 14,402 square meters have mangroves.

The Province has since asked for a refund of P37.8 million from the Balili estate, and personalities involved in the purchase have been summoned to tomorrow’s session of the Provincial Board.

The decision in the Silot Bay case describes a situation “similar to what has happened in the Balili property,” Bolo told Sun.Star in a phone interview yesterday.

In a separate interview over DySS, Bolo said that “when the property is titled, it ceases to be part of public domain.”

“Og naa pa sa nagpa-title pwede ma-filan sa korte og reversion kay siya pa man nagpa-title. Pero napalit sa Province, di na ma-revert. Basehan sa decision ang Silot Bay. Daku kaayo na, naglutaw gihapun na sa dagat (If a title is still being applied for, one can go to court and ask that it be reverted. But the already titled properties bought by the Province cannot be reverted. Look at the Silot Bay decision. That’s a huge property, and much of it is in the sea),” Bolo said.

He reiterated that when he checked the Balili titles, there were no annotations about adverse claims or a recommendation for reversion.

“Ako na hinoon ang nahimong dautan. I committed no crime. I was just doing my duty, my job. Unya nitabang pa ta sa probinsya. I’m protecting the interest of the province. Dili ko ahente nga makasapi (I am not an agent out to get money),” Bolo said.

He added that the purchase followed the regular process and defended his staff for notarizing the deed of sale, saying they did so with permission from the seller.

“We have followed the regular process in land titles. I guarantee that. I’ve been doing that even in the previous purchases. The problem here is only with the submerged part, which we learned only after talks about the Capitol’s plan to dump coal ash in the Balili property,” Bolo said.

“I’m not a licensed real estate broker. I am a lawyer. I have also served as an administrator of an estate for some of my clients,” he said in the radio interview.

Bolo said he will also ask for permission from Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Monday to go on leave, in order to bring his wife to Manila for a medical check-up.

“Abi na lang naglikay-likay ko. Mas maayo sultihan nako siya personal (I don’t want anyone to think I’m being evasive. I will tell the governor personally),” he added.

The Silot Bay case that Bolo mentioned involved 84 hectares of what used to be classified as timberland in Liloan, northern Cebu.

In 1969, after the government certified part of the land as available for development as fishponds, Democrito Mendoza Sr. applied for a sales patent for it.

Right before the auction in 1973, however, then Liloan mayor Cesar Bugtai objected to the sale, saying the town had intended to develop Silot Bay as a tourist attraction.

The sale proceeded. Mendoza, the sole bidder, won.

But in 1988, fishermen-residents protested the issuance of a sales patent to Mendoza, which eventually provoked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to investigate.

In 1990, the Land Management Bureau, acting on DENR’s investigation report, went to court against Mendoza and his three children. It said the sales patents were irregularly issued, because the property was the local residents’ fishing grounds and was not alienable and disposable in the first place.

The fishers won at the Cebu Regional Trial Court, but lost at the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

In its decision on March 28, 2007, the SC said: “If the titles of innocent buyers were recognized and protected in the afore-mentioned circumstances, even when the original title to the property was obtained through fraud, then the titles of the purchasers in good faith and for value of the fishpond areas in the present case better deserve our recognition and protection.” (RSA)


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