fake land titles

What transpired in Norzagaray

Feb. 23, 2010

Norzagaray is a small town in the northeastern fringes of Bulacan, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. It is bounded on the north by the town of Angat, and to its south is San Jose del Monte City, now a bustling center where once the squatters ejected from Intramuros resided. The foothills of the Sierra Madre where the provinces of Rizal, Quezon and Bulacan straddle are ancestral home to the Dumagats, indigenous Filipinos who used to subsist on hunting and slash-and-burn farming, otherwise called kaingin. But because of population explosion and its proximity to Quezon City, Norzagaray lands have become a bit more valuable. It certainly would make a good venue for low-cost housing.

Last Thursday, some 47 farmers, some of them still pure Dumagats, others of inter-married stock, trooped to a small restaurant at the vicinity of Quezon City Hall, and were met by a few reporters who listened to their story. They were accompanied by a lawyer and a spokesperson, a certain Mrs. Tecson, who showed documents to prove their case.

This is their story:

They have cultivated some 480 hectares of land in Norzagaray since the late fifties. Some of them, the Dumagats particularly, had forebears who were there since the times when the fair-skinned invaded these islands.

In 1960, they went to the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and applied for free patent to the lands they had continuously been in possession of. In 1964, in the reign of Diosdado Macapagal, they or their parents were awarded, under Original Certificates of Title (or OCT. Note the word “original”) No. P-858 Free Patent No. 257917, dated April 27, 1964, by the Bulacan Register of Deeds.

Then, in March of 1987, a fire gutted the office of the Registry of Deeds in Malolos, burning all copies of OCT’s in their vault, necessitating TCT reconstitution proceedings. (Sometime back, the same thing happened in Quezon City, creating consternation when fake titles started sprouting, and a slew of contested property conflicts arose). Being poor and un-sophisticated, the farmers did not at the time file for title reconstitution.

Meanwhile, on April 24, 1998, Mrs. Cynthia A. Villar, as president of Capitol Development Bank, and Anacordita H. Magno, its first vice-president, signed a promissory note in favor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for 1.168 billion and another for 332 million, for a total of 1.5 billion pesos, payable after 180 days, or due and payable on October 21, 1998. At the time the emergency loan of Capitol became payable, Manuel B. Villar had risen from a third-term congressman to Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Capitol Development Bank was closed and its assets as well as liabilities were transferred by the Villars to Optimum Development Bank, with a certain Arturo P. de los Santos as its executive vice-president. In June of 2001, Optimum through De los Santos signed a deed of real estate mortgage over the Norzagaray lands in favor of BSP. He once more co-signed for Manila Brickworks, Inc., which was identified as the owner of the lands. Both Manila Brickworks and Capitol Bank, later Optimum Development Bank, were/are owned by the Villars.

To cut a long story short, BSP took possession of the titles mortgaged by Capitol/Optimum and Manila Brickworks because the Villars failed to pay their 1.5 billion loan. Clearly, as we will later discover, the BSP took the titles surrendered to them at face value, little noticing the provenance of its TCTs.

And the Malolos Registry of Deeds forthwith transferred the Norzagaray land titles in favour of Bangko Sentral. Such that when the farmers who held titles over land given to them by the Republic in 1964 filed for reconstitution in 2004, they were told that the same lands had already been transferred to the BSP!

Upon investigation by the Registry of Deeds and subsequently the DENR, which succeeded the divided Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) in the disposition and supervision over all public lands, it was discovered that the BSP-foreclosed titles surrendered by the Villar bank and corporation emanated from OCT No. 287 dated 25 July 1944. This was issued under a sales patent which derived 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 under the said Act and therefore the said “Original” certificate of title is clearly a FAKE and all transfer certificate of titles arising from the said FAKE title are null and void.

In fine, what the Villars, through Capitol/Optimum Bank and Manila Brickworks paid to the Bangko Sentral in partial settlement of their billion-peso loans, were FAKE titles! And aside form the BSP, which was clearly defrauded, victims now are the poor farmers of Norzagaray, who cannot have their titles reconstituted. If a farmer-family wants to obtain a loan so that they can send a son or daughter abroad to work as an OFW (Villar’s advertised beneficiaries of his generosity, for instance), they cannot do so, because the BSP also holds title to the same.

At one time, the farmers said, the Villar corporations sent security guards to drive them away from their land, but they resisted. This seems to be a pattern, as we shall see in other land disputes involving the Villars.

The farmers went from office to office, from the prosecutors office of Bulacan, as well as the DENR. They even went to the office of Senator Ping Lacson after they heard about the mysteries of the C-5 double appropriations. But Lacson’s Ethics Committee could not take cognizance of the letter-complaint of the farmers because then Sen. Pres. Manuel Villar was not yet a senator of the Republic at the time the complained offense was committed. He was yet a congressman, and later Speaker, and his wife Cynthia was not yet even a congresswoman at the time she signed the promissory notes to Bangko Sentral.

The farmers, through Gina S. Jarvina and Valentino Amador, et al, filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman on September 2008. Despite follow-ups, nothing has been heard from the Ombudsman.

Now the man who purveyed their lands to the Bangko Sentral as foreclosed property due to non-payment of a 1.5 billion peso loan contracted for by his wife Cynthia, is running for president of the Philippines. And the poor farmers whose ancestors have continuously lived and cultivated the paltry lands of Norzagaray are deathly afraid that if Villar becomes president and his wife Cynthia becomes First Lady, they would lose their lands and their homes altogether.

Kalaban na nila ang Bangko Sentral, the bank of all banks. Kalaban pa nila ang susunod na Pangulo ng Pilipinas?