Lot ownership row in Apas

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

This land is mine, God gave this land to me. This brave and ancient land to me. And when the morning sun, reveals her hills and plains, then I see a land, where children can run free.

“So take my hand and walk this land with me. And walk this lovely land with me. Though I am just a man, when you are by my side. With the help of God, I know I can be strong.

“To make this land our home. If I must fight, I'll fight to make this land our home. Until I die, this land is mine.”


This is from the song “Exodus,” which was popularized by Andy Williams and was the theme song of the movie, “The Exodus.” This is also the favorite of my idol, fellow Sun.Star Cebu columnist Frank Malilong, who is also a TV 5 Aksyon Bisaya news anchor and a Radyo 5 anchorman.

I am writing this because of the impending demolition of all 157 households in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas as ordered by the court. The residents and the lot claimant are quarreling over a parcel of land that “God gave to them.”

Court sheriff Edilberto Suarin started demolishing the structures on March 4 but it was suspended because of some pending legal issues that the court has to resolve.

Lawyers for the affected residents applied for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order with the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Thursday afternoon, RTC Executive Judge Soliver Peras ordered a “ceasefire” and told the sheriff not to touch anything.

He required both sides to submit their respective memorandums. The affected residents have a respite of two days until the court resolves the pending matter.

But who is the rightful owner of lot 942 (with an area of 9,753 square meters) and 947 (with an area of 7,411 square meters)?

Well, the High Tribunal has re-conveyed the properties from the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to the family of Aletha Suico-Magat. The lots were expropriated in 1949 for the use of the expansion of the airport that was then located in Lahug.

Two separate petitions were originally filed in the local court.

One was by the group of Anunciacion vda. de Ouano, Mario Ouano, Letecia Ouano-Arnaiz and Cielo Ouano-Martinez against the MCIA and the Registry of Deeds (G.R No. 168770).

The other was by the group of Ricardo Inocian in his personal capacity as attorney-in-fact for Olympia Esteves, Emilia Bacalla, Restituta Montana and Raul Inocian, and Aletha Suico-Magat in her personal capacity as attorney-in-fact of Philip Suico, Doris de la Cruz, James Suico, Edward Suico, Roselyn Suico-Lawsin, Rex Suico, Kharla Suico-Gutierz, Albert Chiongbian and Johnny Chan (G.R no. 168812).
But the court ordered their consolidation.

In 1949, the National Airport Corp. (NAC), predecessor of the MCIA Authority, expanded the Lahug airport in Cebu City. Through its team of negotiators, NAC met and talked with the owners of the properties situated around the airport. These included lots nos. 744-A, 845-A, 746, 747, 761-A, 762-A, 763-A, 942 and 947 of the Banilad Estate.

As the landowners later claimed, the government negotiating team assured them that they could repurchase their respective lands should the Lahug airport expansion project not push through or once the Lahug airport closed, its operations transferred to MCIA.

Some land owners executed deeds of sale with the right to repurchase. Others refused because the purchase price offered was way below that of the market. It forced the hand of the Republic,
represented by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (successor agency to the NAC), to file a complaint for the expropriation of lots mentioned above.

On Oct. 7, 1998, the RTC in Cebu directed MCIA to re-convey the properties to the claimants. Albert Chiongbian's intervention was denied. MCIA went to the Court of Appeals (CA).

On Jan. 14, 2005, the CA declared the Inocians as being entitled to the re-conveyance of the questioned lots as successors-in-interest of the late Isabel Limbaga and Santiago Suico, who were the former registered owners of the said lots.

On Feb. 9, 2011, that CA decision was affirmed by the first division of the Supreme Court.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 09, 2014.


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