May 26, 2024

Residents and individuals with stakes in lots covered by the controversial expanded titles in Dontogan, Apugan-Sto. Tomas, and Outlook Drive in Baguio City covering more than 61 hectares may proceed with their applications to perfect their claims.

This after the Register of Deeds (ROD) Baguio field office upon the order of the Supreme Court has nullified the original area of Lot 3-A by one Gloria R. de Guzman from an area of 501 square meters to 160,778 sq. m. at Outlook Drive and from 10,300 sq. m. originally within Dontogan that was expanded up to 442,407 sq. m. that also covered portions to Apugan-Sto. Tomas.

The SC Second Division has denied with finality in December 2016 the motion to uphold the 2009 decision of the Court of Appeals to grant the application of de Guzman for validation of questionable land titles in three areas. The expanded titles even covered existing titled lots, especially in Dontogan and Apugan-Sto. Tomas barangays.

Even with the SC order, concerned residents and stakeholders affected by the nullified expanded lot titles cannot proceed with their land title applications with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as ROD Baguio has not annotated as null and void the original and expanded land titles.

Lawyer Adelina Tabangin, legal counsel for the petitioners against the land titles of de Guzman, wrote to the ROD Baguio on July 6, 2021 to declare Transfer of Certificates of Titles (TCTs) T-12824 and T-12825, as not validated being not applied for validation and TCTs T-12826 to T12832 as could not be validated for non-compliance with the provision of Presidential Decree 1271, hence they all remain null and void.

PD 1271 is an act nullifying decrees of registration and certificates of title covering lands within the Baguio townsite reservation.

The ROD Baguio eventually annotated as null and void the petitioned land titles of de Guzman on July 22, 2021.

The decade-old legal battle against the expanded titles of de Guzman was brought to the fore during the term of former mayor Braulio Yaranon, who expressed support to the affected residents and barangays concerned.

The said fraudulent titles have encroached into the property rights of residents who had long resided in the said barangays; some had existing titles, tax declarations, or ancestral claims.

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

But in the SC decision, it noted several lapses committed by CA in reversing the ruling of the Baguio court such as not including the ROD Baguio as among the respondents.

The SC decision had 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 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 sq. m. included in the TCT 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, which 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 Second Division released a notice dated March 8 stating the High Tribunal’s denial with finality the motion of de Guzman and ordered the entry of such judgment. – Harley F. Palangchao