>> Monday, June 30, 2008
By Aileen P. Refuerzo
BAGUIO CITY – City officials warned lot buyers here last week against purchasing lands covered by a controversial title which includes the site where Shoe Mart (SM) plans to set up a condotel by cutting down many trees in the area.
The city council Monday decided to elevate the investigation into the controversial Original Certificate of Title No. 1 to the Office of the Solicitor General following findings that several land titles issued to various entities have overlapped with that of the said mother title.
OCT No. 1 in the name of the Insular Government of the Philippines covers a prime and expansive lot that straddles Governor Pack, Harrison Road and the Government Center.
The title also covers lots now occupied by the Commission on Elections, University of the Cordilleras, Social Security System, Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Baguio City National High School, part of the University of the Philippines, the People’s Support and the forested area near the Baguio Convention Center which SM is eyeing for its condotel project.
In a resolution proposed by councilors Fred Bagbagen, Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Isabelo Cosalan Jr., the city council urged the OSG to also annul the extraneous titles if proven that these indeed overlapped with OCT No. 1.
In their measure, the proponents said it was found out that the titles issued to SM Baguio, the Government Service Insurance System, the heirs of Carantes and others have overlapped with OCT No. 1.
They said surveys have been conducted of the property by the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources and the city assessor’s office. During the department heads meeting Monday headed by Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., Register of Deeds Juanito Ampaguey issued a warning to the public against buying lots covered by titles that appear to overlap with OCT No. 1.
He said these titles may be valid as these were issued by legitimate agencies but these may be a cause of trouble eventually especially with the problematic situation of OCT No. 1. “Oct No. 1 is very controversial and we advise the buyers not to deal with people who sell these lots,” he said.
Tabanda during the meeting reported that prospective buyers of said lots came to her office inquiring on the legitimacy of the title. She said if the title holders succeed in selling the lots covered by said extraneous titles, then the city will face more serious problems eventually.
The OCT No. 1 problem has been the subject of an investigation by a city council committee headed by Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. The investigation was prompted by revelations made by Councilor Rocky Thomas Balisong in a privilege speech on the apparent indiscriminate titling and parceling of lots embraced by OCT No. 1.
The council the other week also asked for a formal survey of the lot to establish its metes and bounds to be conducted by the DENR in coordination with the City Government of Baguio, the Department of Public Works and Highways and with the presence of the representatives of SM Investment Corporation, University of the Cordilleras, Philippine Tourism Authority, Department of Education and all other parties with approved plans or titles within OCT No. 01.
According to the measure, a plan prepared by the assessor’s office and the DENR showed there are several survey work orders issued for the subdivision of some portions of OCT No. 01, some of which were already approved by the DENR.
The resolution also said that there are proclaimed areas for various public purposes as well as portions with individual original certificate of titles issued within OCT No. 01.
The resolution added that according to the Office of the City Assessor there exists 53 Tax Declarations on their record covering several subdivided lots within the said titled government property in the names of either government agencies or private entities who are either owners or beneficial users.