Bistek tried to mislead P-Noy in land-grab row
What is happening to the Quezon City government under Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista? It has become a shameless land-grabber. Worse, Bautista wants to involve President Aquino in his land-grabbing activities.
On Dec. 8, 2014, Bautista wrote a letter to the President asking him to amend Proclamation 1670, s. 1977, that granted a usufruct to the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (MSBF) over seven hectares of land, which is part of the National Government Center owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA), and give the land instead to the Quezon City government.
In his letter, Bautista tried to mislead the President with misrepresentations and outright falsehoods.
He wanted the President to violate the Constitution and be a land-grabber, too. A usufruct is a contract protected by the Constitution. Depriving the MSBF of its usufructuary rights to the 7-hectare property would violate Section 10, Article III (Bill of Rights) of the l987 Constitution, which proscribes the passage of any law impairing the obligation of a contract. Similarly, any amendment to the proclamation revoking the grant to the MSBF of the usufruct will violate Section 1, Article III of the Constitution forbidding the deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
Besides, Bautista’s act of requesting an amendment to Proclamation 1670 constitutes an unwarranted interference by third parties in contracts, which makes him liable for damages under Article 1314 of the Civil Code.
No less than the Supreme Court upheld Proclamation 1670 on April 13, 2008. In its decision in National Housing Authority v Court of Appeals, Bulacan Garden Corp. and Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, the tribunal upheld the usufruct granted to MSBF for 50 years, or until 2027.
It will be recalled that on July 10, 2012, Bautista sent Quezon City policemen, members of his Department of Public Order and Safety, private security guards of Marban Security Agency, and hired goons to forcibly take over the MSBF Gardens and destroy the administration building and all the plant nurseries and gardeners’ stores. In January 2014, the Quezon City government, using brute force, physically expelled the MSBF and all of its tenants from the 7-hectare usufruct area.
Bautista’s excuse was that the Quezon City government had become the owner of the property, having forfeited it for nonpayment of real estate taxes since 1981. But this is completely illegal.
First, property owner NHA is exempt from paying real estate taxes under the Urban Development and Housing Act. This exemption was recognized by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in BIR Ruling 071-98 dated May 25, 1998, and by the Land Registration Authority in Circular 1-2004 dated Jan. 26, 2004.
Second, under Article 597 of the Civil Code, the MSBF, being the usufructuary of the NHA property, is also exempt from real estate taxes which, during the usufruct, may be imposed on the property.
These exemptions are in full force and effect and are not disputed by Bautista himself.
In short, the Quezon City government is not and has never become the owner of the 7-hectare property. To date, there is no annotation in the Torrens title of the NHA over the property regarding its supposed acquisition by the Quezon City government. Neither has the Quezon City government any title issued in its name over the property.
Moreover, in forfeiting the property on account of unpaid real estate taxes, the Quezon City government did not comply with the Quezon City Revenue Code of 1993. Not having complied with this Code, the Quezon City government did not become the property’s owner, nor did it become entitled to possession of the property. The Supreme Court is clear on this issue. In its decision in City Mayor of Quezon City et al. v. Rizal Banking Corp., Aug. 3, 2010, it held that what the Quezon City government should comply with is not the Local Government Code but the Quezon City Revenue Code of 1993 in forfeiting a parcel of land for nonpayment of real property taxes on it.
Not being the owner, the Quezon City government had no right to expel the MSBF from the property.
Moreover, Bautista has publicly admitted that the Quezon City government does not own the MSBF property. At the opening of a 2013 horticulture show at the Quezon Memorial Circle, he said: “Here at the Quezon City Memorial Circle we can assert our ownership. This is ours. Not like the Manila Seedling Bank property, which is still owned by the National Housing Authority.”
The mayor also lied to the President when he said that the MSBF’s certificate of registration had been revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission. This is false.
First, the Quezon City government is estopped from denying the corporation personality of the MSBF. It has all the while recognized and transacted with the MSBF as a corporation. It tried to collect real estate taxes; it has actually collected business taxes from it.
Second, the SEC itself does not consider the revocation of the MSBF’s certificate of registration as final. It gave the foundation until Dec. 31, 2015, to petition for the lifting of the revocation. In fact, the MSBF filed its petition with the SEC last Feb. 4.
Third, the MSBF has not been dissolved; much less is it in a state of dissolution. It continues to exist and operate in another address. It was also grossly dishonest of Bautista to tell the President of provisions of the Corporation Code and the Civil Code, as these provisions refer to a dissolved corporation.