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An owner’s long struggle to recover his property

Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. — US Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett

A Series of Unfortunate Events.

That’s the title of a movie, a 2004 American “gothic black comedy film” directed by Brad Silberling.

Here’s an online movie synopsis: Lemony Snicket (Jude Law) narrates this tale about the adventures of the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny. Violet, at 14, is brave and resourceful. Middle child Klaus, 12, possesses a keen wit and an obsession for words. Sunny, the baby of the group, has her own way of communication and likes to bite things. The three children experience several colorful escapades as they’re shuttled among a series of relatives and eccentric personalities. The most dastardly of their potential guardians is Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who devises various calamities to gain control of their inheritance.

The following chronology is also about “gaining control” of a property but not by “devising various calamities” but via legal processes.

And there’s nothing comedic about it.

Owners would naturally consider losing any property to be “calamitous”.

In fact, all owners of property acquired via honest, lifetime work who suffer the same fate would feel the same.

Read on and see if you agree with them.

Ped Xing wonders whether this case can be used as a legal baseline, a future reference.

The case of Felix Chua against the United Coconut Planters Bank and the Asset Pool A is, as the saying goes, one for the books.

Let this timeline based on court records speak for itself:

The case arose from a joint-venture agreement entered into by the Chuas with Gotesco Properties Inc. on March 3, 1997 for the development of the couple’s 44-hectare property in Lucena City.

The project, however, did not materialize.

On March 21, 2000, a memorandum of agreement was signed with UCPB to consolidate the obligations of the Chuas and Jose Go, representing Lucena Grand Central Terminal, Inc., which was then determined at P204 million.

The parties agreed to deduct P103 million in exchange for 30 parcels of land, including improvements with the P68-million balance to be converted by UCPB into equity in LGCTI.

On Nov. 11, 2003, the Chuas wrote UCPB to seek an accounting of Go’s liabilities that had been “mistakenly secured” by the mortgage of their properties and a list of the properties covered by their real estate mortgage for re­appraisal.

But sometime in 2004, in spite of a pending case filed by the Chuas to recover their property, SPV-AMC “acquired” the property in question from the UCPB, allegedly with full knowledge of the case at hand.

The Lucena City Regional Trial Court then ruled that the loan obligations of the Chuas were fully paid, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.

The SC’s Special Third Division, led by then Associate (later Chief) Justice Lucas Bersamin, ordered UCPB to return to the couple “the equivalent of 49.44 percent of the total area of the 30 parcels of land involved in the transactions, estimated at P200 million”, which was in excess of the amount of the loan originally secured by the Chuas.

On Aug. 16, 2017, the Tribunal, noting that UCPB assigned Go’s loan obligation amounting to P404 million involving the LGT to the couple without their consent, ordered UCPB to return to the Chuas their property titles amounting to P200 million, aside from the interest and additional costs incurred in the proceedings of the case.

Quite expectedly, UCPB and SPV-AMC filed their motions for reconsideration, a move that would trigger a series of seemingly never-ending appeals.

The SC denied UCPB’s first MR on Dec. 17, 2018.

Representatives of UCPB and SPV-AMC fired off succeeding motions – a Joint Motion for Leave of court to file and Admit the Appended Motion for Reconsideration filed on Feb. 18, 2019; a Joint Motion to Refer the Case to the court en Banc on Feb. 26, 2019; a Joint Motion for Leave of Court to file and Admit the Enclosed Supplemental Joint Second Motion for Reconsideration on March 29, 2019; and a Motion to Resolve Jurisdictional Threshold Issue to Refer the Case to the Court en Banc on July 5, 2019.


On July 24, 2019 the Special Third Division of the High Court issued a resolution denying with finality the Joint Second Motion for being a “prohibited pleading”, at the same time issuing a warning that “no further pleadings, motions, letters or other communications shall be entertained” as an Entry of Judgment would be issued immediately.

However, despite the Court’s clear and direct instruction, representatives of both UCPB and SPV-AMC, on Aug.t 28, 2019, filed a Reiterative Motion to Resolve Jurisdictional Threshold Issue to Refer the Case to the Court en Banc.

And on Oct. 24, 2019, UCPB and SPV-AMC representatives again filed a Very Urgent Motion for the Court en Banc to Assume Jurisdiction Over G.R. 215999 and to Consolidate Said Case with A.M. 18-08-18-SC.

In January this year, the Special Third Division of the High Court delivered what was supposed to be the last nail on the coffin of the case when it issued a Resolution stating that all the aforesaid motions filed by UCPB and SPV-AMC were “expunged” from the records of the case, thus reiterating that “no further pleadings, motions, letters or other communications shall be entertained regarding the case”.

But again, despite the repeated order, UCPB, last June 16 filed a Very Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order/Status Quo Order asking the Lucena RTC to restrain itself from enforcing the Writ of Execution issued on June 3.

Then, sometime in July, UCPB filed a series of motions assailing the decisions reached on Aug. 16, 2017 (fourth motion), Dec. 17, 2018 (third motion), and the resolutions issued on July 24, 2019 (second motion) and Jan. 29, 2020 (first motion).

The Chuas have filed a petition calling on the SC to “discipline UCPB, represented by its officer in charge Ludivino S. Geron, lawyer Ismael Andrew P. Isip, Asset Pool A, represented by its president Siu Hung Hung, and lawyer Hortensio G. Domingo” for their incessant filing of motions.

Now, the following questions arise:

Are some privileged entities allowed to ignore court decisions, even those emanating from the highest tribunal in the land, questioning them no end as long they can afford them, and in the process, deny the other party the justice and the right to recover property, the fruits of which they have long been deprived of?

Are the actions of both UCPB and SPV-AMC, not undermining the integrity of the SC?

Aren’t these actions simply wasting the time of the justices who still have to attend to a raft of other cases that also need to be addressed?

What happens if the SC keeps on entertaining MRs as long as parties to the case can afford them despite the issuance of a decision deemed final and executory?

Wouldn’t this create a scenario wherein resource-enabled parties would be seeking reopening of their cases where the decisions have not been favorable to them?

At what point can judicial authorities write finis to the process?

What else can the Chuas do?

There are no easy answers, only more hard questions.

Foremost of which is: How does the court feel and respond when the decisions it makes are methodically, serially ignored?

How long can judicial authorities endure some parties with enormous wherewithal to playfully run rings around the judicial system, in utter disrespect of the law and the courts?

Does judicial fatigue set in after procedural overstretch?


A big heart for OFWs

There is more – much, much more — to the guy than just giving us President Duterte.

Then Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was relentless in his pursuit of the Davao City mayor to convince him to run for the highest office in the land.

Cayetano was dead sure Duterte was the right man for the top job in 2016.

He was a lone wolf in this conviction for months on end, never giving up on persuading the tough-talking mayor to make a run for the presidency.

His unrelenting courtship of Duterte took months while tirelessly telling the people they needed a hands-on, no-nonsense guy to nudge he nation to the right direction.

As the weeks marched into months and the campaign period neared, Cayetano himself filed his candidacy for the vice president.

This way, much time and work would be saved should Duterte finally decide to throw his hat into the presidential election ring.

As fate and popular clamor would have it, Duterte eventually gave in and decided to slug it out in a multi-candidate presidential contest.

Cayetano’s dogged determination paid off, but his luck run short – Duterte snagged the presidency in a monster landslide; the senator failed to land the vice presidency.

He kept his Senate seat but was soon tapped by the new President to be the next Foreign Affairs secretary, a position where his leadership star was to shine brightly.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the Middle Eastern countries that employs the highest number of Filipino migrant workers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said as of December 2019, there were 865,121 Filipino migrant workers in KSA who stood to benefit from the abolition of the controversial kafala system or visa sponsorship which the Philippine government had fought hard and advocated in the United Nations and other international fora.

Then, the Saudi Government announced the abolition of the system effective March 14, 2021.

With this, all foreign workers in the Kingdom would no longer be required to secure their employers’ consent should they decide to leave or change jobs. They would also be allowed to travel even without approval from their employers.

The International Organization for Migration lauded the new KSA labor policy, describing it as a “game-changer” in terms of migrant worker protection.

The IOM also recognized the DFA’s effort to push hard for the reform to ensure the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers.

It was, in fact, the former DFA chief and now Taguig congressman who initiated the triumphant fight for the abolition of the Kafala system way back in 2017.

As a recognition to his “outstanding and dedicated service” as DFA chief, President Duterte conferred on him the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu – a much-deserved citation — when he left the Cabinet agency in 2018.

Cayetano’s reform push resulted in the increase of t, a much derved he allocation for the Assistance to Nationals fund from P400 million to P1 billion and the Legal Assistance Fund from P100 million to P200 million. This paved the way for the DFA to help 14,995 distressed OFWs and to provide legal assistance to 685 migrant workers facing charges.

Old policies and procedures were also updated to reach out to as many OFWs needing assistance, and help them as soon as possible. Thus, the DFA was able to financially assist OFWs in need due to calamity or accident.

But the pro-OFW programs did not begin only after he landed the top DFA post; he had brought this advocacy earlier to the Congress.

Hence, when he became the House Speaker, he pushed for the passage of the bill that would pave way for the creation of the Department of OFW that would focus on the welfare and protection of the Filipino migrant workers.

It was in March this year when the Department of OFW bill he authored passed final reading before the House of Representatives. However, its counterpart bill before the Senate still pends.

Other noteworthy projects include the launch of the Passport on Wheels which hastened the process of passport application, and the opening of consular offices in Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Davao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Tarlac.

The processing of passport application dramatically quickened –from 9,500 daily, the capacity increased to 20,000.

With the introduction of e-payment system, the applicants’ show-up rate rose from 65 percent to 95 percent.

The courtesy lane was also expanded, with senior citizens and persons with disability entitled to bring with them one relative.

Minor passport applicants are now also enjoyed the same privilege as they are allowed to be with their parents in the courtesy lane. The privilege is also accorded to pregnant women, returning OFWs, and solo parents along with their minor child.

The Philippine passport is now also valid for 10 years, also thanks to Cayetano.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people