Freeman Metro Cebu

Ombuds clears DENR exec from complaints

Mylen P. Manto - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - For lack of merit, the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas cleared the land management officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-7 from criminal and administrative complaints.

Graft investigation and prosecution officer Maria Regina Hagad-Fernandez said her office cannot rule on the matter, thus dismissed the complaint for falsification of public documents and misconduct against Bonifacio Rivera.

“Benthel’s complaint against respondent for falsification of the report which eventually led to the issuance of a title over the subject property in favor of Gravador is actually a collateral attack against Gravador’s title not permitted under the principle of indefeasibility of a Torrens title.”

“It is well settled that a Torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked; the issue on the validity of title, i.e., whether or not it was fraudulently issued, can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for the purpose,” the resolution reads.

The complaint was filed by Benthel Development Corporation represented by Gemma Gonzaga.

In its complaint, she alleged that respondent “presented and submitted a false declaration” to support the patent application of Marcelino Gravador to the prejudice of Benthel, being the actual owner of the lot.

She said on June 30, 1975, Benthel purchased the lot located in Gabi, Cordova town, Cebu with an area of 18,950 square meters from spouses Jovito and Arsecla Jumamoy and thereon paid the realty tax.

However, she said they were surprised when a free patent title on the property was issued to Gravador in 2001.

Upon inquiry, she said they found out that it was the respondent who processed the same.

She said there was an alleged untruthful statement in the report prepared by the respondent because Benthel already owns the lot.

“Benthel Development Corp. clearly suffered damage and injury considering that it now cannot have the subject property titled under its name since a free patent was already granted to Gravador; that Gravador clearly obtained the free patent through the assistance of DENR officials, respondent in particular,” the complaint reads.

In his counter-affidavit, Rivera denied the allegations pertaining to the “irregularity” in the issuance of the free patent in favor of Gravador.

He said the DENR approved the survey.

He said the area covered by the free patent title granted to Gravador was only 4,999 square meters.

He added it was on February 21, 1986 that Gravador obtained the free patent.

He said Benthel has one year from the issuance of the free patent in favor of Gravador to question the validity of the title but failed.

With that the ownership of Gravador was “absolute and unquestionable.”

In her ruling, Fernandez said as per allegation of the complainant that respondent falsified the statement in his report that led to the issuance of the free patent in favor of Gravador would show that complainant indirectly attacked the validity of the title.

“There is then a collateral attack on the validity of the title.

A collateral attack is made when, in another action to obtain a different relief, an attack on the judgment is made as an incident in the action.

This is proper only when the judgment, on its face, is null and void, as where it is patent that the court which rendered the judgment has no jurisdiction,” the resolution reads. (FREEMAN)


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