Issue of April 16, 2017
Mt. Province

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SC voids expanded land titles from 1.1 to 66 hectares in city
by Harley F. Palangchao

The Supreme Court denied with finality the motion to uphold the 2009 decision of the Court of Appeals to grant the application of one Gloria de Guzman for validation of questionable land titles in Apugan-Sto. Tomas and Outlook Drive originally covering 1.181 hectares but was expanded to at least 66 hectares.

Penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen of the SC 2nd Division, the SC said the CA “committed an error too obvious for the High Tribunal to neglect and that its conclusions are not only contrary to facts but also are not in accord with existing doctrines.”

On March 26, 2009, the CA reversed a decision of the Baguio Regional Trial Court denying the petition of de Guzman for validation of titles of properties at Sto. Tomas-Apugan and Outlook Drive.

The request for validation meted several oppositions from concerned Baguio residents and other parties considering that the original area of Lot 3-A by original owner de Guzman under Title T-11946 with an area of 10,300 square meters in Dontogan-Apugan was subdivided to five (T-12828, T-12829, T-12830, T-12831 and T-12832), which now cover 511,586. square meters at Sto. Tomas-Apugan and Outlook Drive.

T-9463 of 1,000 sq.m. was subdivided into two lot titles namely T-12824 and T-12825, which now cover 4,482 sq.m  while T-12067 with an area of 510 sq.m. was subdivided to two lot titles: T-12826 and T-12827, which now cover 155, 786 sq.m.

Many of the buyers covered by the subdivided titles are overseas Filipino workers, according to Atty. Adelina Tabangin and Lydia Areola who assisted the lot owners in their petitions for the denial of the validation of the expanded areas of de Guzman to the Validation Committee.

In the SC decision, several lapses committed by CA in reversing the ruling of the Baguio court have been noted.

The SC decision affirmed that the Baguio Validation Committee, which recommended for non-validation of the applications by de Guzman, did not gravely abuse its discretion in denying the applications contrary to the observation of the CA.

SC noted that the former Secretary of Justice recommended that all nine titles being applied for validation by de Guzman be denied because of the false statement that the excess area of 660,554 square meters included in the transfer certificate of title after the subdivision of the mother titles were purchased when in fact the excess was acquired only through a resurvey of the subdivision plan.

The Baguio Validation Committee disapproved on Aug. 31, 2006, de Guzman’s application for validation of her application.

The SC decision also noted that the CA faulted the Office of the Solicitor General for its failure to appeal the decision of the Land Registration Authority.  LRA directed the cancellation and expunging of the invalidated titles on Sept. 11, 2006.

De Guzman, who filed a motion for reconsideration, has appealed the SC decision dated Dec. 5, 2016.

But the SC Special Second Division released a notice dated March 8 stating the High Tribunal’s denial with finality the motion of de Guzman and the SC also orders the entry of such judgment.

SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is the chair of the SC Special Second Division with Associate Justices Leonen, Arturo Brion, Mariano Castillo, and Jose Mendoza as members.
Areola said the SC decision has been welcomed by affected landowners, who earlier expressed dismay to the CA decision, saying that the CA decision has established a dangerous precedent “because it now makes it legal for one to apply for a title over a certain lot then expand it to include adjoining lots.”

Among those who helped for the invalidation of the expanded land titles were former Baguio Mayor Braulio Yaranon and also retired police chief Arturo Lomibao after he learned that concerned residents who lands were affected by the questionable land titles were not properly entertained by concerned government personnel in the past.

Several land titled lots were included in the expansion by de Guzman.

A sourced knowledgeable of the case said almost 90 percent of the areas covered by the expanded titles were sold while several land title lots, including Sto. Tomas Elementary and Sto. Tomas National High Schools were included in the expanded titles of de Guzman.

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