Farmers claim that Villar used their lands as collateral

Farmers decry impending loss of land over Villar’s alleged ‘manipulative acts’
By Abigail Kwok

MANILA, Philippines – Farmers from the province of Bulacan on Thursday decried the impending loss of their land due to what they claimed as “manipulative acts” of presidential candidate Senator Manny Villar and his wife Cynthia.

But Mrs. Villar has denied the farmers’ accusations, saying that they were only trying to “malign and derogate my good name and reputation.”

Farmers from the town of Norzagaray claimed that their lands, over 300 hectares, were used as collaterals by the Villars to the Central Bank to acquire almost P2 billion in loan, using supposedly “dubious titles.”

Lawyer Arcy Taboso, the counsel for the farmers, said that Mrs. Villar presented a title that was issued by the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan in July 1944.

But the farmers claimed that the title used by Mrs. Villar was “fake.”

“It is alleged that [the title] was issued under sales patent, which derives its existence from Sec. 122 of Act 496 of the Land Registration Act of the US Government. However, during July 1944, the country was under Japanese occupation and hence there was no valid title issued…and therefore the said [title] is clearly a fake and all titles arising from the said fake title are null and void,” the group said in a statement.

“Clearly Cynthia Villar used fake titles to secure her company’s loan and Central Bank obtained alleged title to the same using these fake titles,” the group added.

But in a counter-affidavit, Mrs. Villar denied this and said that the owner of the supposed “fake” land titles was Manila Brickworks Inc. and not Capitol Development Bank.

“At the time the titles to the properties in question were presented to Capitol Bank as security for the loans that Manila Brickworks Inc. was applying for, the said titles were valid and subsisting. At all times that the titles were under mortgage with Capitol Bank, no action in court was ever filed for the nullification of the said titles, nor was there any valid final judgment declaring the said titles null and void,” Mrs. Villar said.

The farmers, during a press conference at Alex’s Grill in Quezon City, said that in April 1998, the Villars, through their companies Capitol Development Bank and Manila Brickworks Inc., obtained a loan from the Central Bank by mortgaging lands that were owned by several farmers in the sitios (sub-villages) of Karayumi, San Isidro, San Jose del Monte, and San Mateo.

The farmers said they have occupied and cultivated the land since the 1960s. However, they lost their land titles in a 1964 fire that gutted the building housing the Register of Deeds in Bulacan.

The farmers claimed that the Villars acquired a loan of P1.5 billion and the farmers only discovered these alleged acts of the Villars in July 2003, when the Central Bank was already confiscating the farmers’ lands over the Villars’ alleged failure to pay the almost P2 billion loan, said one of the aggrieved farmers, Gina Jarvina.

Because of this, Jarvina filed a case before the court to restore ownership to 37 hectares of land owned by her family. The court ruled in favor of Jarvina and the ruling was also affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Other farmers are yet to obtain their land titles, the group said.

Farmers also complained on the supposed lack of action of the Office of the Ombudsman, for failing to act on their complaint filed against Villar.

The group said they have filed charges of graft and plunder against the Villars last September 26, 2008 but the Ombudsman have yet to act on the case.

Named respondents in the complaint were the Villars, Anacordita Magno, first vice president of Capitol Development Bank, Arturo delos Santos, executive vice president of Optimum Bank, and Andres Rustia, managing director and in-charge of the Department of Loans and Credity and the Asset Management Department of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The group also filed charges of swindling against Mrs. Villar over the incident.

But in her counter-affidavit, Mrs. Villar denied all the accusations of the farmers.

“I…hereby deny in the strongest terms the accusation against me. Consequently, the complaint should be dismissed for being nothing but malicious prosecution and intended to malign and derogate my good name and reputation,” Mrs. Villar said.

She denied that she has entered into any contracts with the farmers although she was the president of Capitol Development Bank.

The ProPinoy Project