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SC: Boracay lands still government-owned up to now

Batas Mauricio .

DO you know the basis of President Duterte in announcing that after Boracay is all cleaned up he will give the island to the residents and the farmers there, and no longer to the rich businessmen and the others who somehow managed to secure titles or tax declarations in their names or their relatives over choice lots in the world-class island beach resort?

It turns out there is a joint decision that the Supreme Court issued in October 2008 yet, which declared that the government continues to own the whole of Boracay, considering its classification as an “unclassified public forest,” or a piece of land that cannot be titled, in any of its area, in favor of any private individual.

The joint decision of the high court was made by it in two cases: G. R. No. 167707, which was entitled “Secretary of the DENR, et. al. vs. Mayor Jose Yap, et. al.”, and G. R. No. 173775, entitled “Dr. Orlando Sacay, et. al. vs. Secretary of the DENR, et. al.”. The joint decision was issued by the Supreme Court on the same day — on Oct. 8, 2008.

It is a lengthy joint decision that the tribunal issued in G. R. No. 167707 and G. R. No. 173775, but it came up with, and established, amazing legal points regarding Boracay. To those who are interested to know these points, what I intend to do here is to focus on them one by one, until such time we shall have fully covered all items that the Supreme Court discussed in its decision.

Now, the first important and vital point that everyone should understand about Boracay is this: according to the Supreme Court, the businessmen and other people who occupied various lands in Boracay, and who now claim they should be given prior recognition as the lawful owners or possessors of what they have occupied or where they have put up structures for their businesses,  have actually no right to be so recognized.

Even if businessmen-claimants are claiming they have already invested hundreds of millions of pesos on the lands they have been utilizing for their business enterprises in Boracay, their right as owners can not simply be accepted, the Court said. Whatever degree or length of possession they may have already enjoyed over those lands through the years will not yield any legal right in their favor, it added.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize any right of the present occupants or businessmen doing business in Boracay, no matter how long they may have been there at this point, is anchored on a simple point: at the time they started occupying or started doing business in the island, Boracay and its lands were still classified as “public forest”. Under the law, a “public forest” can never be acquired by any private individual.

Because of this classification as a “public forest” of Boracay at that time, titles in favor of any private person over lands therein can never be acquired by anyone, simply because the lands continue to be owned by the government. The Supreme Court clarified that a land which is “unclassified public forest”, like Boracay, can be titled to a private person only when the government declares it to be ready for disposition to private individuals, which is what Duterte wants to do, but only at this point.

“Private claimants’ bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title…  must (therefore) fail because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable land…. Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights…” the Court added. Clearly, no private person owns any land in Boracay, and the President is right in saying Boracay should be delivered to the farmers there.


Edgardo J. Angara, 83. We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Angara Family, now led by Sen. Sonny Angara, with the untimely death of his 83-year old father, former Senate President Edgardo “Edong” Javier Angara, last Sunday on account of a heart attack.

Sending their condolences to the Angara Family as well are my siblings, Atty. Leny Lazo Mauricio (who, like the Angara father and son, Edong and Sonny, and like me, are all members of the UP College of Law Sigma Rho Fraternity), and Atty. Marisa Lazo Mauricio Panotes, who was Sen. Sonny’s classmate at the UP College of Law.

We share the grief of Sen. Edong’s passing, for we recognize, deep in our hearts, the untiring efforts of the Angaras to extend whatever assistance they could give to my brother, my sister, and to me in particular, while we were still at the UP Diliman, Quezon City, and even when we pursued our own niches in the legal profession as trial lawyers who defend clients during courtroom litigations, day in and day out.

I will never forget how Sen. Edong helped me in no small measure when he was still president of the UP during the waning years of the 1970s. I was then a new member of the Sigma Rho Fraternity, while I was also a police reporter of the then Daily Express pursuing night law school at the UP College of Law.

Apparently because some UP police authorities then got disgusted with some articles I wrote for the Express then, they sued me before the UP Student Disciplinary Tribunal, with their objective then to subject me to some disciplinary penalty. After the trial of the charges against me, the Disciplinary Tribunal scheduled the release of its findings: one year suspension from school.

On the basis of those findings, then UP Law Dean Jerry Barican talked to me to implement the suspension against me. Divine intervention occurred, however, because before that penalty was to be carried out, Sen. Edong got installed as the UP President. Angara immediately ordered a review of the findings against me and, only a few days, a new decision came out saying I was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Sen. Edong was born in Baler, Aurora, Quezon, on Sept. 24, 1934. He finished law at the UP College of Law when he was barely 24 years old. While at the UP Law, he became a member of the Sigma Rho Fraternity. He was subsequently invited to become a member of the Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Kappa Phi international honor societies, for academic excellence.

In 1964, he successfully completed his Master of Laws Degree from the University of Michigan in the US. And, in May 1972, he and his brods from the Sigma Rho (including then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile) formed the Accra Law Office, which became the biggest and most powerful law office in the country, until today.

From 1981 to 1987, he served as UP President, in which he showcased his uncanny capability in public or government service, after a stint as the national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. He is a loving father (to Sen. Sonny), and a caring and doting grandfather to his grandson, Javier, whom he brought on a Hongkong visit just last week.


E-mail: batasmauricio@yahoo. com


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