Simplifying the rat’s nest of land title holdings

Land Title lamudi dot com

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Land ownership is difficult for tribes to get their minds around. Or socialists. The idea that an individual can claim a piece of property goes against the grain of free and open access and use of the land. How can a fisherman fish if someone claims the lake? How can a miner mine, or a hiker hike? Where do the carabao graze if not on the open, unclaimed patches of grass? We need open lands.

That is one end of the spectrum.

The other is the cry for order and decency. Why did the city allow that noisy vulcanizing shop to go in next to my apartment complex? How can private stores claim the street and not let me park there? Why does the municipality allow those settlers to put their homes on the dangerous riverbank? Why in the world is that hacienda being built on our cherished rice terraces? We need rules to control development.

In a lightly populated land with wide, open ranges, free movement and use is practical. In a land with 100 million residents vying for space with the farmers who feed them or the businesses that employ them, we have some conflicts. We need rules.

The Philippines needs rules.

I thought about researching land use history of the Philippines and studying up on on zoning and farmland ownership and use, but I decided that would not help much. The mess is too messy for a mere mortal to unwind. All the brightest legal minds in the nation have spent 50 years mucking up the rules for holding title to land and seas. This convoluted history confounds the most earnest of problem-solvers. Furthermore, because all the claims and counterclaims, registrations and titles to specific properties are on paper, sorting them out takes a lot of time and trouble. Information held in the provinces cannot be easily shared with agencies in Manila that have a question. Like the Senate investigating a particular hacienda in Batangas.

So it seems to me that the number one goal should be to clean up the mess. And the fastest, cleanest way to do that is:

Pass a law that erases all prior laws . . .

“Ha! You are nuts JoeAm. That would throw everything into chaos.”

Well, if you would kindly let me finish my thought.

Pass a law that erases all prior laws and provides a three-year window to transfer to perfected claims.

“What in the world is a “perfected claim”?

Thank you for shifting from incredulous to curious.

A “perfected claim” is private or institutional title to a parcel of land (or water) that is uncontested. It is free and clear of any dispute or challenge, or has been ruled as free and clear by an official judgment panel.

Let’s back up a step

Before implementing the three-year window, we need to get prepared for the process, because the process will be comprehensive. That is, by the end of three years, every square meter of the Philippines, its lands and seas, will be recorded in digital format and most plots will be clearly and unequivocally owned by an individual or institution. An institution might be a corporation or government or foreign interest.

We need:

  • A national computer registration and mapping system.
  • A system of Title Clearance Boards at provincial capitals.
  • The new law that defines the steps for transfer and maintenance of titles. This is the “process” law.
  • A comprehensive National Land Use Law that establishes the long term policies and broader rules for care-taking the nation’s land and sea resources.

Let me start the discussion rolling by providing a few ideas about these matters.

National computer system

The system would be maintained at a central location – preferably not in Manila – with input/output terminals available at Land Title Departments at local government units (LGUs).

Titles would be held in electronic form, with certified print-outs available on request and for a fee. Titles would be classified into several buckets:

  • Status: Perfected, Contested, In process, Unclaimed
  • Purpose: Industrial (heavy, light, clean), Commercial (retail, wholesale, service), Public (government, utility, transportation, religion, education), Residential (high density, moderate density, low density), Resource (agriculture, forestry, mining, recreation), Water (fishing, power, recreation, transportation), Other.
  • Ownership: Individual, Institutional, or Joint and name
  • Taxation: Assessment basis; record of payments.
  • Baseline survey: points and directions
  • Other information: as determined by titling experts

The mapping system would allow a quick visual inspection of the entire nation. At the outset of the three-year period, that map would be blank. Various tracts and plots would soon be filled in by LGUs going through the re-recording of all properties in the Philippines. If questions arose as to survey conflicts or claims, properties would go into the “In Process” bucket. If a formal challenge to ownership were registered at a Title Clearance Board, a property would go into the “Contested” bucket.

By the end of the three-year transfer period, the map would show mostly “Perfected” ownership. Zoom in on the map and specific properties could easily be certified as properly titled.

The real estate transaction business would become a forthright, booming business. Not the head-scratching, low-confidence, process-encumbered business it is now. Land owners would be able to realize fair value for properties. Land buyers would be assured of getting what they paid for. Banks would be able to lend with confidence, giving the economy an upward kick.

Title Clearance Boards

A lot of ownership in the Philippines is informal rather than titled. Families fight over their inheritance. The rules for distribution of agricultural lands also generate confusing or conflicting ownership. The specific need is to get this mess cleaned up and the only way to do it is with “new rules” and a quasi-judicial process for considering who holds rightful title to properties. Solutions to contested cases would be based on a set of rules, among them dividing the property (among family members) when that is the simplest and fairest solution.

Case law would develop quickly as complicated issues are resolved.

My vision is of five-member panels of real estate experts in each Province working to resolve cases on a quick “best information” basis, under a set of rules for ownership based on today’s laws. Contesting parties could represent themselves or hire real estate experts to present their case.

The demand for surveys, real estate para-legal advice, and real estate agents would blossom. New jobs. Good ones.

New Law on Title Processing

This would be the rulebook followed by the Title Clearance Boards. It would be passed as a part of the act of Congress that would establish the land entitlement program as national law.

  • What are the rules for inheritance?
  • What are the rules for zoning (refer to National Land Use Act)?
  • What are the rules for agricultural property?
  • What are the rules for contesting claims?

All old laws would be erased on the drop-dead date three years down the pike. Land owners would carry the burden of making sure their property title is perfected under new rules. No grandfathering of old rules would be permitted. Cut clean, cut clear. Simplify.

Land Use Law

The National Land Use Law would stand as the constitution for how land and waters are preserved and used in the Philippines. It would recognize the profound realities of global warming and dwindling resources. It would take the hard decisions necessary to assure proper maintenance of Philippine lands and seas for future generations, assure high living standards (e.g., noise reduction in urban areas), protect agricultural lands from residential encroachment, manage forests and seas for long-term preservation, and defend against severe storms and climate change.

It would provide the master framework under which the Title Clearance Boards would work, marking out large tracts of land for preservation or dedicated use (industry).

It would take a lot of courage to pass this law because some power blocks (agricultural landowners on the edge of urban development, miners, forestry workers, fisherpeople, business owners) might object.

No one said being a legislator should be a walk in the park.


181 Responses to “Simplifying the rat’s nest of land title holdings”
  1. Oldmaninla says:

    Joe, An excellent dream, so good if implemented in the nation, will reduce Lagay (under the table grease money), Litigations will diminish, one step national progress……..

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, the process to put the dream into reality is bound to be harder than I project because of the complications of existing laws, the lack of quality survey teams, and so forth. But the advantages, including those you cite, are HUGE. I’d imagine it would raise annual GDP growth by at least a percentage point. Can you imagine? Qualified collateral for long term, low rate RE loans?

      • Oldmaninla says:

        I salute you to initiate this suggestion, indeed, the benefit is HUGE, I know Pres. Aquino and congress officials are reading your excellent suggestion, from a former UCLA SENIOR ANALYST, now retired. The Philippines needs more people like you. THUMB UP…🎯

    • wangad says:

      when it comes to land ownership it is the rule of bullies and the mighty that prevails. one has already the land title to his property but that does not mean one can have possession of your property. pinoys are like the chinese grabing land from land owners. one has to go to the courts to retake what is rightly his/hers. such is the rule of law on lands and property in the philippines and that is a reality. so the chinese are giving the philippines a dose of its own medicine. not that i am siding with the chinese, i hate people who take things which is not, motorcylces, celfons, tablets, lands, etc…and evildoers have human rights, but victims seem do not have it and what they have is human wrongs.

  2. josephivo says:

    Belgium we have two overlapping systems, a cadaster and official notaries.

    The national cadaster is a comprehensive register of the real estate properties, since a few years it is converted to a GIS (Geographic Information System). Its main use is that real estate taxes are paid correctly, correct amount, correct person. (As in most of Europe it was introduced by Napoleon)

    Notaries are lawyers with an extra post-graduate year as notary and 3 years of OJT. The number of notaryships is limited per province by law. Access to the profession difficult, the ownership of a notaryship very profitable but expensive. They are mandatory member of a board of notaries with strong ethical rules and the power to suspend members. They have an archive coupled to the cadaster with all legal documents related to a property, mortgages, rights of way and similar liabilities, legal restrictions…. This register is digitalized since a few years. (in the Netherlands these documents are part of the cadaster)

    When you sell or buy a property the transaction only has finality when registered by a notary. He is responsible to verify the correctness of all information regarding the property by consulting the national cadaster and the Notary Archives. If later legal claim arises due conflicting documents the notary has to carry all consequential expenses.

    I suspect the Philippine system to be again an unworkable combination of the Spanish Napoleon based and the American system set by the Bureau of Land Management. Please make up your mind and copy one existing system do not try to combine the best of all systems into an unworkable expensive monster.

    • josephivo says:

      The verification and registration fee is a fixed percentage of the real estate value set by law. Preparing of the transaction documents one normally gets assistance of his lawyer or more often his notary. Payment of the proper transaction taxes is a precondition for the transaction and the collection is also guaranteed and done by the notary.

      (Don’t know all the proper legal terms in English, hope it is understandable.)

    • Joe America says:

      Yes indeed, and if there is a better way to clean it up than I have cited, get cracking on it! Why persist with this gawdawful mess of paper and inefficiency that confuses more than clears up. I find the notary services here a hoot, as they are required for incidental transactions like changing a name on a bank account. So I go into a law shop on the corner to a guy who I don’t know, and who doesn’t know me from Jose, and the bank believes HIM over me. I tell you, trust is a quirky quality hereabouts. If I sign my name to a contract, it is a promise, and if I break it, I should be held accountable. To start with the presumption that I will break it unless a notary signs the document is just papercrap.

      • sonny says:

        The notary public also goes back to Spanish colonial times. The royal seal was a sine qua non token to certify approval. I suspect over the centuries, that certification went many layers deep to the point of “what does it mean”

        • Late 19th century Philippine documents are on very durable Spanish paper, with the fountain pen ink that was used then, and the ornate flourishes of the respective unnamed village scribe, the scrawls of peasants and the ornate writing of mayors as signatures. And the Spanish documentary stamp of the respective year to give authenticity, and ornate language that is still used on Filipino affidavits until today, only now it is in English. Early 20th century Philippine documents were on American bond paper and written using blue American ballpoint ink, so they are less durable than the old Spanish documents – the forms used were bilingual – with “Islas Filipinas – Philippine Islands” on the header. In the “interregnum”, Bikol continued to use Spanish documentary paper, without the stamps but still with the ornate writing of the village scribes, which means that in the period when the Spanish were gone but the Americans not yet really in control, local governments worked. Japanese-era documents were typed on the same thin paper the Republic later used…

          The practice of needing authentication of signatures – something chempo noted was an issue when someone presented his US entry stamp or visa – dates back to the Spaniards. Spanish officials seemed to enjoy certifying signatures based on knowing them, maybe it was an important thing to keep a far-flung empire working inspite of many gaming the system – the Filipino practice of doing so is known in Latin America as “la manera criolla”. The creole way, game those higher than you to not be the loser or stooge all the time.

      • josephivo says:

        A solution would be the put full responsibility at the notary side, the risks and the benefits.

        2 types of contracts, notarized ones and private ones. Private ones have jurisdiction for the signatory parties only, notarized contracts have universal jurisdiction.

        If I sell you my property privately today and with a notarized contract to someone else tomorrow, than the second person will be the owner. Bad luck for you, you can go to court to try to get your money back by claiming that I sold the same property twice, what is illegal.

        If I try to sell it twice via 2 different notaries, than the second notary has to pay you back because they are responsible to guarantee that the property was unencumbered, no discussion. The second notary can sue me for the illegal second selling.

        Let notaries solve the problem (regulate them better and compensate them for the risk and efforts).

        • Or you require that all sales be duly legalized by the “boards”, give them a role similar to civil registrars and of course the deed of sale is issued after the data is input into the IT system which is of course client-server tapping the central databse which is duly updated.

          • josephivo says:

            A fully notarizes contract takes a few weeks to give the notaries office time to verify the documents.

            • If everything is done centrally with a database, all you need to verify is there.

              Except in the transition period of course. The NCSO database in the Philippines was a huge advancement, the civil registry chaos of the times Grace Poe was FOUND removed.

        • Joe America says:

          Thanks for the helpful elaboration. That makes good sense.

        • edgar lores says:

          I’ve bought and sold property in Oz, and everything is handled by the real estate agent, who handles the sale and the exchange of money, and a “conveyancer”, who effects the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another. The conveyancer may also be a legal practitioner but not necessarily so. Depends on the State.

          Most document witnessing in Oz is performed by Justices of the Peace who do not get paid for their services. Documents used in foreign countries would require a notary public.

          • mercedes santos says:

            We do our own conveyancing in Melbourne.

          • they also existed in the Philippines during the American colonial period:

          • mercedes santos says:

            Most banks in the US have notaries for free, if a person is bold enough he/she can get a document notarized even if they don’t have an account with the bank. Universities and hospitals provide notaries for free for their own employees. The notaries don’t necessarily have to have legal training but must undergo certification from their respective states annually or otherwise. UPS and Fedex charges for the service, I don’t know, though, whether the USPS requires moolah for their signature.

          • Bill in Oz says:

            Yes Edgar, it is a fairly complex process but the real estate agents do most of the work with the conveyancers. It used to be done exclusively by ‘solicitors’ ( lawyers who do not perform in courts but do paperwork only )..That was expensive..But the introduction of a separate profession of “Conveyancers” has lowered the costs a lot.

            Banks provide home loans but usually will organsie there own ‘property valuer’ to check a property and give a valuation to ensure that the loan is NOT more than the value of the property..:
            Document witnessing ( at least in South Australia ) is also done by the police at the local police stations..Again no charge..Just some time in a queue with everyone else there on police matters..Which can be interesting on occasion.

            I wonder about the feasibility of a single land titles register in the Philippines where there are 100 million people..If ever states are established along with a Federal system, then land titles offices are a logical part of that process: more local; more easily accessed etc.

            In Australia land sales usually attract a compulsory “Stamp Duty” tax based on a percentage of the value of the land being sold..about 1%..It provides a very good income stream to our state governments.

            • edgar lores says:

              Bill in Oz,

              1. The feasibility of a single land titles register is medium to high under a client-server arrangement as noted by Irineo. Certainly, the technology is there. It would require massive computing resources though and the architecture of the system would be crucial.

              1.1. The current thinking is a two-level node architecture: municipality central register? Perhaps a three-node level would be more feasible: municipality province central register.

              1.2. I am not sure how it works in Oz, at what level computerization is whether just local council or statewide, but I note that real estate agents have easy access to property info. I am surprised by the amount of data they have when I have had dealings with them.

              2. Good point about the stamp duty tax. It’s a real money-earner for the government with the high turnover in property ownership.

              • edgar lores says:

                1.3. Perhaps a pilot project for a province/city should be considered to establish feasibility, to determine problems and establish solutions.

              • Bill in Oz says:

                All land titles are issued by the Titles offices in each state or territory ( ACT & NT ). By law the titles office is the only institution which can issue land titles…This ensures that all title dealings with any parcel of land is handled by the same office…

                The local councils maintain their own register of properties ( not the same thing as a land title as a ‘property’ can also be an apartment in a high rise – a condo ). They do this to be able to issue rates notices each year. The rate is the local tax amount owing each year
                for local government services like streets, parks, gardens, local libraries, sewerage, etc etc..

                My point about decentralising is about ensuring local access to as many people as possible; It is not about computer capacity..

              • edgar lores says:

                Bill in Oz,

                The client-server configuration that Irineo mentioned would be at once a centralized and decentralized computer architecture.

                The decentralized node (the client) would be a complete system located in a municipality that would provide local access. All the decentralized nodes would be connected to the central node (the server) that would contain nationwide data.

                The central node would require a backup node that is an exact replica, a mirror image, of the central node. This would ensure continuous operation should the central node go down.

                (To make the picture more complicated, the local system at the municipality level could be a client-server configuration. There could be several PCs (clients) connected to a local server or servers.)

              • Edgar, in the Internet world these decentraliized servers would be called “mirror sites”… there are also so-called “cache servers” used in by archiving software like Open Text.. and a lot of modern multi-tier architectures the young web programmers tell me about.

       – this is about checking SSS employment history online… most stuff related to getting NCSO info (like the certification that one is single etc.) can also be handled online by today Efren Nolasco’s site shows how it can be done I have not looked at how identification is handled but it seems to work possibly the new “Postal ID” is a factor… – as for land transfer this site shows the whole process.

              • edgar lores says:

                Irineo, thanks.

                The number of documents and the number of government offices to be visited are mind-boggling!

                I believe in Oz all of these are handled by the conveyancer. I certainly did not have to visit any government office either as a buyer or a seller.

                It seems one needs arcane knowledge to conduct any type of commercial transaction in the Philippines. That’s why there are fixers. It gives me rashes just thinking about it.

              • Joe America says:

                Arcane is a kind way to put it, as a visit to the LTO is enough to put a permanent tic in one’s eyebrow as they charge their fee for this sticker or that license plate or this driver’s license, then tell you to come back in a couple of months or next year to pick it up. We are into our second year without the registration sticker that goes on the license plate confirming registration. But no worries, the police have never, to my knowledge, enforced it anyway. Convoluted, bizarre, absurd. Something quite beyond arcane.

              • – this is very interesting and is probably the answer to not having a national ID – it is voluntary and has modern features.


              • edgar lores says:

                Why is there a signature of the Postmaster General & CEO at the bottom of the card? What is the need for it?

                In Oz, the Driver’s Licence pretty much serves as the universal ID. It would be honored in most transactions with the government and with banks. A passport would have a higher degree of certifiability.

              • – Philhealth can also be accessed online nowadays… which I find amazing for what I know of the Philippines.

       – NCSO Birth, Marriage, Death and CENOMAR can all be accessed online now… there has been a NCSO database since the 1990s the old (and often faked) mess in city halls over…

              • “The number of documents and the number of government offices to be visited are mind-boggling!” It was much worse in the olden days… I mean during Marcos days. This posting at Raissa’s shows how some government officials now have the new mindset of service, but some still have the postcolonial mindset (there was a study by “UP crooks” about colonial attitudes in the Philippine government service – common people were and sometimes are still treated like “Indios” of old by government officials, no wonder THEY often don’t give a hoot about the state and the government which for them IS the nation)

                “That’s why there are fixers.” Fixers in Spain are called “gestores”… Spain has the same bureacratic, hidebound legacy, the same arrogance of the powerful (only recently broken by Podemos) but the Philippines now has Efren Nolasco (a fellow Albayano and IT man) and to at least inform about what is needed. Government offices sometimes have online information sometimes not enough… consular offices do have enough online information now… I still experienced the post-Marcos era when embassies still treated Filipino citizens like subjects… I was on both sides, was nasty to a few people, but I also secretly helped the Filipino associations draft a petition to the Embassy in well-crafted language… the first item “We demand that citizens be treated with respect”… Now the Embassy has outreach programs goes to the cities you can make appointments, and as one can see the government back home has many services available online also.

              • “Why is there a signature of the Postmaster General & CEO at the bottom of the card? What is the need for it?” Tradition maybe?

                19th century Mayor Templado of Tiwi sometimes used “in Nombre del Rey” when something needed particular authority – like when he reportedly detained a Guardia Civil for harrassing him. Heneral Luna and Heneral Mascardo only stopped quarreling when a rider came carrying a letter from “El Presidente” Aguinaldo – at least in the movie. Seems only higher authorities carry enough weight to be believed in the Philippines.

              • edgar lores says:

                You are right: it is tradition. The purpose is authentication based on a paper-based system.

                On a card system, it is pretty much useless: the CEO could change anytime. Several systems have been used to authenticate plastic card IDs, ranging from card design, to holographs, to info on magnetic strips to embedded chips.

                There is a high need for procedural analysts in government offices. These slips are painful to see especially when OFWs in this kind of work are respected in other countries.

              • “fee for this sticker” documentary stamp fees date back to Spanish times.

                The 1882 and 1918 documents I posted over here show that.

                Things once introduced in the Philippine usually stay.

              • “There is a high need for procedural analysts in government offices. These slips are painful to see especially when OFWs in this kind of work are respected in other countries.”

       – the author of this blog is one… I am to him in terms of professionality in organizational stuff as Duterte is to Mar Roxas… I did learn a lot of stuff by working on the ground, SAP Workflow projects, making companies adjust to new ways.

                What is interesting is that Romeo Encarnacion also was in Eastern Europe and shares some observations I have made, even if his conclusions sometimes differ I respect that… one thing he did see I also saw is that Eastern Europeans were bolder in changing stuff, and that applies to all levels not just the political, top-level one. In Romania all court cases are online, so you can find out if you are dealing with a potential crook, the national ID is the most reliable identification they have, e-government more advanced than in Germany..

                Do we want to ask the Romanians if a Ceausescu will ever make it as leader of their nation? Even the Arab Spring countries can learn from these people! After fumbling for 25 years, they elected one – a liberal from the country’s ethnic German population – committed to crackdown on corruption and strengthen the rule of law. [The Telegraph, 22nd Dec 2014]

                I do share his criticism of the resistance to change in the Philippines… what Joe calls “gahi ulo” I call insularity, Encarnacion calls parochialism… it is the same attitude that made Ibarra fail in Noli Me Tangere and Simoun kill himself in El Filibusterismo – and has kept me abroad for 20 years now with not a single visit because “crabs on steroids” truly hate you if you try to do anything differently. I already mentioned my visit to DFA and my global computerization scheme with low costs and simple technology… and how it was rejected.

              • sonny says:

                Joe, also add ‘recondite.’ he he

              • Manong sonny, I seldom have to look in the dictionary…

                Which shows how well your generation was taught English and many other things.

              • sonny says:

                🙂 Irineo, I have to admit to a running love affair with the English language. I don’t use the spellchecker because more than a few times it has returned not-found or hilite on some normal words. To be sure, there are still plenty of words to be learned and retained. I have kept an older edition of Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dict just in case.

              • sonny says:

                Not only ‘fee for sticker’ stay in the PH. Include beautiful songs of diff periods, langs, and cultures.

              • Manong sonny, tenacity of tradition is typical for island cultures. I remember Malta – and I will never forget the sunburn I got in 2002 because that small island south of Sicily is practically treeless in many parts, a half-desert with shrubs, so my arms after just one afternoon practically had a second-degree burn whose scars took years to fade and still are there if one looks closely. Many invaders have come and gone, people are resilient…

                They speak a Semitic language, actually a stray Arab dialect… because of the Crusaders they are Catholic, yet they call the God they pray to “alla” (Jewish: Eli)… and because the British were there, I remember people on the ramparts of Valetta peppering their speech, Semitic language with many Italian words, with the expression “awright”, meaning all right. Everything was close-knit one could sense… whether it was old people on their way to church or young people in bars or on the beach… for sure the island mode of survival. .

        • chempo says:

          So the notaries are in effect insurers. That will certainly increase the conveyance cost.

    • “unworkable combination of the Spanish Napoleon based and the American system set by the Bureau of Land Management. ” WORSE. Spanish colonial based in its beginning, pre-Napoleonic. The land of Pedro, with the land of Juan in the North, the land of Emilio in the South, the land of Jose in the West and the land of Silverio in the East. Later titles were at least with “solares” which is a strange Spanish measure for land area, no coordinates.

      American period brought the American system and as always in the Philippines some who gamed the system for themselves and others who lost. The Republic made it even worse.

      TCTs I think were a recent reform, didn’t exist before, but about that lawyers can say more.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    When you had your Malaysian /Singapore holiday,we discussed this.Edgar gave a few inputs.Am sure he will have more inputs to come.

    • edgar lores says:

      I think JoeAm has covered the essential elements of the solution.

      Is the DOST satellite up and running yet? It should aid a great deal in mapping the country and settling how many islands there are.

      If I were to visualize the application, it would be basically like Google Map with macro and micro views, and everything in between. On the macro view, you might want to identify topology, classification and natural resources. On the micro view, you might want to pinpoint a lot and establish everything that pertains to it.

      Digitizing the data would be a tremendous task. Satellite-supplied coordinates might need reconfirmation by manual surveys. I don’t know if this will be necessary. For lands under the Spanish system, it might be.

      Not sure if all of this can be done in 3 years. It would be important to keep history, the changing of classification and ownership starting from implementation.

      As Joseph points out the boon will be taxation, part of which should go to maintaining the system.

      As Irineo points out the other boon will be the resolution of long-standing conflicts in ownership and titles.

      There are many other benefits as JoeAm has pointed out. A real estate boom.

      The true wealth of the Binays and the Coronas may be truly exposed. Or maybe not. Dummies may still be made use of, and as Irineo says whoever has control of the system may become the next Binays and Coronas. (Which brings up the point that horizontal and vertical “land” as in condos will have to be inputted.)

      Do friar lands stall exist? I would like to know how much holdings the churches maintain. Are they paying taxes? Can unused estates be acquired by public domain and allocated to agrarian reform and squatters?

      The next president has his/her work cut out for him.

      • If there is to be a finalized land reform, compensation could be an aspect. The money the former big landowners get would flow into stocks of corporations and other investments. Rent-seekers might finally become real capitalists, the vestiges of feudalism removed.

  4. Unsettled land claims are a HUGE blockade in the Philippines. Families divided for decades due to land issues. Of course major bitterness because landgrabbing and gaming the rules was something that happened in all periods of Philippine history…

    1) Many parts of the Philippines were not titled for centuries. In my old neck of the woods it was common for land owners to prove they had the right to sell by means of an affidavit – in Spanish – from neighbors who certified that they were what is called “disinterested persons” in modern Filipino affidavits which have many flourishes that are simply Spanish conventions translated into English, stating they had tilled that specific patch of land for at least 30 years – old native laws?

    2) Spanish land titles had NO geographical coordinates, just the neighbors in every direction. This was OK for the Spanish who usually had huge estates everywhere and every Don knew where his land ended and that of Juan other Don began. But for Filipino farmers it was horrible.

    3) The American period brought some systematization. Friar lands were confiscated by the USA and sold but of course those who had money managed to profit. Sometimes it happened to be mestizos who had been the administrators of that land – often for their friar fathers. Yes, their biological fathers with Filipinas. Some were successful business people like the Zobel de Ayalas, descended from a German pharmacist who set up shop in burgeoning Manila of the late 19th century. Some were clever Chinese traders like the Cojuangcos. A lot of envy made for bad blood.

    4) Land sales and claims were also made during the short period of Japanese occupation and due to legal continuity of course remained, just like Laurel is part of the official line of Presidents. Of course here as well there is bad blood, because some may have been “smarter than others” to use the favorite line of Imelda Marcos. Some may have “made up” or “gotten even” for what they saw as getting too little out of the American period or even losing out to some of the powerful.

    5) Every regime including the Marcos regime saw confiscations or pressure to sell land for highways or power plants or other stuff. Some people sold out cheap or even had goons coming to pressure them to do so. Well, it happened even in Spanish times – the abaca boom in Bikol led to enormous dispossession of formerly independent small farmers by abaca planters, and these dispossesed farmers became bandits in the hills. The topography of Bikol on the Pacific side does lend itself to hiding out. Japanese hid in caves. So did Negritos and numerous remontados.

    The German solution for those whose lands were confiscated by the Russian military government was to give an economic compensation for not being able to use the land. Many landowners in Prussia – the former German military and political elite or oligarchy – lost land from 1945-1948. The Russians made non-reversability of their land reform a condition for their signature on the 2+4 Treaty, because the “Junkers” for them were the warrior class that cause a lot of trouble. By 1990 most from these families had adjusted and founded businesses in West Germany, were high officials in the West German government, or academics – their energy had been productive in other pursuits than landowning and grabbing land from other European nations. In fact the breaking down of that class helped modernize Germany. I heard it was the same in Japan.

    Joe’s clean slate is a good idea, possibly in combination with some finalization of land reforms in exchange for economic compensation. Land Use as well as so-called “usifruct” – there are old laws in places like Germany and Mallorca that prohibit fencing in certain paths that have been in use for centuries, a legacy of Germanic common law – makes sense as well. There should also be a revision of the Lina law in that context. Both rent-seeking and freeloading are inimical to real enterpreneurship. It definitely is not easy and will take very neutral, high-minded people to sit on the authority that takes care of land issues. In the hands of the wrong person or people, such an authority is in danger of being either gamed or accused of gaming for vested interests. I would not want to sit on such a board, I might need bodyguards like a Mafia prosecutor in Palermo. Or I might get tempted, because such positions can be truly lucrative if one is so inclined. Or I might get blamed by every faction in the Philippines and hated by everybody by trying to be impartial.

    • sonny says:

      “3) The American period brought some systematization. Friar lands were confiscated by the USA and sold but of course those who had money managed to profit. Sometimes it happened to be mestizos who had been the administrators of that land – often for their friar fathers.”

      1902 Philippine Organic Act disestablished the Catholic Church as the state religion … The US government in an effort to resolve the status of the friars, negotiated with the Vatican …

      In 1904, the administration bought the major part of the friar lands, 166,000 hectares, for $7.2 million dollars, one-half was in the vicinity of Manila … Eventually resold to Filipinos, some tenants, but the majority were estate owners …

      From: PHILIPPINES, a country study (by US Library of Congress, Ronald Dolan, editor)

  5. karlgarcia says:

    even SM have several cases pending in many areas they negotiate with owners or go to Fort Bonifacio they have a case with retired Navy Officers.
    in our case our land in AFPovai near the pn golf course are squatted by caddies.This is a complicated issue.
    i like the tabula rasa approach.

    • Squatting the traditional Filipino way I find more comfortable than standing for a long time.

      Squatting the way we had to as a punishment during Marcos-era Citizen’s Army Training was not nice. Neither were push-ups, or hitting the stomach where the officers first felt whether you had a sixpack or not. At least you had the chance to cover your solar plexus. Or the Third Year SCOs who had to walk to the left of the corridors and salute the officers who were Fourth Year, push ups if they forgot. THAT BTW is not shown in the Pisay movie, what is shown is how SCOs (School for Cadet Officer) trainees had to stand at attention and not blink while officers walked around them and made fun of them or insulted them. Similar to some hazings shown in a movie about Filipino frats, to decrease sensitivity…

  6. OT:

    if I was to give a guess:
    Duterte Authoritarianism
    Mar Stability
    Poe Optimism
    Miriam Credentialism
    Binay Envelopism

  7. The first major systematization in the Philippines was the – the surname law or the Claveria list.

    Two curiosities that are not in the Wikipedia entry:

    1. Three native surnames were specifically instructed not to be given to anyone. These surnames were Tupas, Mojica and Raja Matanda – the families of these three native chieftains had special exemptions granted to them by decree of King Philipp II in exchange for their loyalty to the throne. Tupas was a chieftain of Cebu and Raja Matanda was in Manila. MRP once said “traitors are good” – the Filipino tradition of collaboration begun in those days, in Felipinas.

    2. It does mention the names of Oas, Albay which all start with an R. The friars of Albay just went around Mayon volcano with the alphabet. Original Tiwi natives have names starting with B and C. Bajillo, Clutario, Carbonnel etc. while other names migrated to the place during the abaca boom.

    Before Governor Claveria, Filipinos often either had no surnames or just gave themselves the surnames they liked. Brothers even had different surnames. The decree was on Nov. 21, 1849. One can only imagine the wildlands that used to be. The Penal Code which is still in use in a modified version was instituted in 1884. Civil Code during a similar period, but at least that law is Napoleonic and modern, while the Penal Code is what Rizal already called a “colonial jest”. Public schooling was decreed by Queen Isabel in 1863 – I guess it was Spanish colonial rote learning. The first local election was in 1895 – Aguinaldo one of those who won… the prototype “trapo”. Things have come a long way if one looks back… the Philippine Constabulary of the Americans was formed by Spanish Guardia Civil veteran Rafael Crame… look at the modern PNP today.

    • sonny says:

      The Claveria article sure demystifies a good amount of our patronymics, Irineo. Surfing the towns n cities of Spain gives out names that are familiar as Filipino surnames. There is a little preponderance of Basque names too such Legazpi, Azcarraga, Luzuriaga …

  8. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    If ever it is implemented in the Philippines it will go to naught. Cadastral or titled or notarized Filipinos look at this as just a piece of paper. Take for example the squatted property of University of the Philippines right next to its campus. Prime location. Premium price. The squatters went up ini flames. Morning after U.P. management fenced the area. Squatters protested. Since it is election time once again the Mayor of Cebu City supported the squatters for votes. The Archbishop of Cebu got involved. With all top-notch lawyers graduated from U.P. they stood and backed down.

    There is also a squatted property of Province of Cebu. Prime location. Multi-million price at the back of Capitol-look-alike Capitol the seat government of Cebu. They have to bring in troops to forcefully eject the squatters. Lost votes.

    My absentee-owner parents also have squatted properties. Huge headaches. They sent them several eviction letters. No eviction.

    Squatting is legalized land-grabbing protected by politicians and the church NOT BY LAW. My parents got titles. They pay real property taxes. But not own them. I bet they are EDSA Revolutionaries, the EDSA that made them land-grabbers and it is legal.

    Land owners resort to burning the place down. The wealthy bring in their troops. My parents used prayers. But the squatters pray, too!!! It is like Corona having a mass with a gaggle of bishops on the steps of Supreme Court Building and Benigno also held a mass in Malacanang.

    Bishops against bishops. Priests against Priests. Prayers against Prayers. In the end crooks play the squatters for votes.

    Land Title is only a piece of paper. Nothing happens. Nothing doing.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Land Titles is like Spratleys. Philippines is absentee owner. China squatted. Now they are bringing in missiles, frigates, radars and airports. Philippines went to INternational Court. International court gave them eviction notice. They are not evicting. Since Philippines is a weak country spending millions of hard earned taxpayer money on frivolous frigates and jetplanes to be used for EDSA “Revolution” fly byes only not to attack China. And the frigates? Well, it took a week for Frigates to reach Tacloban. Mar Roxas? He was there BEFORE, DURING and AFTER! But no frigates over the horizon bearing foods. It was the Americans. CNN Anderson Cooper was there IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOLANDA while it was still howling winds. The Philippine Press came after the Americans and CNN.

      The victims of Yolanda went back to what is left of Tacloban to lay their stake. First come first served. They see. They saw. They came and they squatted again. Today they are like an impacted tooth difficult to extract.

      While the fiasco at Yolanda was ongoing there was also the battle of Land Title between Trillanes and Tony Tiu. Trillanes wanted Tony Tiu to prove that he is guilty by dummy by subpoenaning him to produce the Land Title of BinayLand.

      Even Lawmaker Senator Trillanes cannot get Land Title from Register of Deeds. He has to ask Tony Tiu. Lawmaker Senator Trillanes was so lazy to go to Cadastral nor ask his minions to get it from Register of Deeds.

      See, in the Philippines a suspect has to prove himself guilty. They put them in the stand. Ask questions if they overpriced the Parking. They did not audit the contractors finances instead they asked the contractors and the contractors willingly obliged thru their mouth not thru balance sheets. In Balance sheets it is where one can find the in-and-outs of money and to whom. Contracting corporations normally issue checks and in cleared checks is found where it was deposited to. If journal entries says x millioons of cash, then BIR comes in where the money went to because Balance Sheet is Math. It is mathematical equation that is always equal.

      Nothing like that. If they cannot do simple forensic accountinig. They cannot do Land Titling. Yes, they can do Land Titles. They own the title not the land.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      My parents told me if they pass away I will inherit their squatted property. Here is my plan of action if ever I outlive my parents. I will loan money from a bank. Have the property as guarantee. Take the money and launder it to the U.S.

      But banks are smarter tha I thought. They do not rely on my parents LAND TITLES. THEY WANT TO SEE THE PROPERTY THEMSELVES !!!! Just like Lawmaking Senator Trillanes, he went to BinayLand because there is an exotic provision in Philippine Law that all properties must have a sign that says “KEEP OUT! THIS PROPERTY BELONGS TO BINAY”

      So, I take Lawmaking Senator Trillanes is brilliant like the Bankers. They have to see the land to believe it. They bring surveyors and civil engineers to measure the land. They also ask those people living within the land if they had the right to live on the property.

      The bank found out they were squatters. They turn down my loan. NICE !!! SMART !!! I GOT CHECKED MATE !!!

      …. by squatters …. by bankers …. The property is doomed !!!!

      • mercedes santos says:

        You are giving me ideas Mariano.

        • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

          Try it, Mercedes, it may work. As you know, bankers do not take land title by its face value. It has no face until they survey the land, otherwise, it has no value.

          Another trick is sell it to land developers. They have the money to take care of the squatters. Of course, it is fire sale but heck better than squatters having it.

      • This is completely doomed for a long time but it is still a nice historical document. – a piece of Spanish paper.

        An interesting look into long-lost times… but not much more than that… my life is now here.

        • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

          I want to forget it but I cannot. Because if I forget, Filipino crooks wins … AS ALWAYS.

        • sonny says:

          Irineo, my great grandfather has one similar as title to his La Union domicile. The script is so unmistakeable. This document antedates the creation of the current town.

      • chempo says:

        MRP – you are so funny for something so serious. Its exasperation. My company had a few hectares of land in Cotabato. It was bad investment by a but in the board. They left the land there and did nothing 15 years now. Paying a small town mayor to keep an eye on it. Well the major was good he never sell the land, he merely sell the earth there. Truckloads of fresh soil got taken out for years. Last we inspected there was a big lake there.

  9. James de Valera says:

    Philippines have so much rules but I hate to say this & some of you will probably disagree that Filipinos doesn’t follow any rules, simple rules like queueing, don’t follow any road sign etc.,
    Putting campaign posters in the designated areas is a very simple rules to follow but politicians that are highly educated people doesn’t even lead by examples.

  10. NHerrera says:


    A huge necessary work and in keeping with our fast-changing world. But with obstacles galore.

    It would take a lot of courage to pass this law and persistence and dog work indeed.

    A legislator who tackles this work and make it workable — entangling this rat’s nest of a problem — deserves the title of a “national hero.”

    It also needs the equivalent brain trust and efforts, among others, of the Society’s Joe, Irineo, edgar and Karl. And lots of luck too.

    • karlgarcia says:

      So flattered that you included me manong N.You should have included yourself because our legislation fails to be implemented,because they do not do the numbers.If they do,they will slash 1 billion or 2.

  11. wjarko says:

    Sorry to break it to you Joe, but this will remain a pipe dream unless a revolution happens.
    My professor was a key figure pushing for the National Land Use Law in the mid-90s, he’s still fighting for this but one can see the frustration and hope fading from his eyes. He even recalled that one of his colleague was pregnant when they first started, now her kid is a professional.

    The leading roadblocks are the people in Congress who come from the land-owning families. I dont expect these people to pass laws to their own detriment.

    I even heard from a family friend who is part of syndicate run by retired generals who have people the Land Registration Authority and DENR titling government unalienable and indisposable lands to powerful people (read as national/protected forests & small islands), years before it came out on the news.

    Again, ”Its the system, stupid”.

    You presented the solutions, Joe, now the problem is how to implement the solutions. There powerful people blocking reforms for land use since time in memorial. Its no question why we had one of the longest yet unsuccessful land reform program in the world.

    From what I’ve learned, here are some ways to implement land reforms:
    1. Revolution – socialist or coup d’etat – which is unlikely to happen in the near future.
    2. National Enlightenment – Filipinos suddenly stop voting ‘democratic’ feudal lords – also unlikely to happen.
    3. Make land reform policy and implementation requisite to the following:
    a. loan packages/assistance from international lending institutions
    b. membership to regional association (what EU did to its member states)
    c. membership to international trade unions
    note: provided that loan/assistance/membership is compelling enough to forgo familial ties and interest.

    As you can see the democratic process of passing into law land reforms is not included since it has failed miserably for more than two decades now. There is just no way such a law will pass in the current composition of Congress.

    What to do, what to do?

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks for that dose of reality, wjarko. Number 3 requires outside initiative and probably won’t happen in our lifetimes. Number 1 is unlikely to produce the kind of thinking that would change how property is accounted for. Number 2 is the best bet, and would require a strong president from a dominant party selling the benefits, which are mainly economic boost, jobs and careers. I share your view that the project is likely a dream, with about a 2% probability of coming to fruition, because the landowners and businessmen do drive political decisions. Still, I expect to ridicule the legislators every opportunity I have, for whatever good that does. I’ll also praise when someone like Senator Aquino moves against “the dark force” and passes bills like the Competition Act.

      • wjarko says:

        No. 3 actually worked really well for EU, they used the strategy really well in reforming post-Soviet states and other Eastern European countries like Hungary which had systems similar to the Philippines. They used EU membership as a dangling carrot to push them to work hard in reforming land use laws. If only there was similar entity in Asia that has such influence.

        Senator Aquino has been quite a surprise. I didnt expect him to be such a progressive law maker. him being the youngest one in the bunch, its probably a generational thing – well educated, technologically acquainted, he doesnt share the values the generation before him has. Time can be the biggest vehicle for change. We just need to wait it out, wait for the old blokes and degenerates in Congress to go extinct. Hopefully the likes of Pacquaio dont make it in.

        • Joe America says:

          ASEAN seems a long way off, in terms of that kind of influence. I’m looking for something in my lifetime. 🙂 A Senate full of Aquinos competing with one another for output would be great.

          • Senator Karl Garcia (the smart and honest alternative to Sotto who even be funnier than him if necessary) to ask the right questions and Senator Giancarlo Angulo (to replace Bam Aquino when he moves up to the Presidency) to quietly work on facts and figures?

            But the requirement for that or similar to happen would be a real Philippine Enlightenment and a slow transition from old dynastic politics to the civic politics of a modern nation.

            • Joe America says:

              Yes, the dark forces are working against that, however. They are pervasive.

            • karlgarcia says:

              Thank you again Chancellor Irineo.👍🏻

              • Welcome! University Chancellor? In Germany I would not even qualify for a professorship because I only have a Master’s. Even a Ph.D. cannot simply become a professor over here, they usually have to have an academic track record of several years publishing not just barely a year of blogging like me, even if in Computer Science they relaxed the requirements because the private sector is so much more attractive. At least I finished my Master’s many just moved to the private sector because the money was tempting, and in the “olden days” before the Bologna reform there was NO Bachelor yet in Germany, you had no degree if you didn’t finish master’s, no chance to get into international companies.

              • karlgarcia says:

                Chancellor as in Chancellor Merkel.😜

              • There is a certain career path for politicians here as well… usually you start in the youth organizations and work your way up. My brother was on that path but decided to go into political and corporate PR which he does well being a natural mediator and communicator. Merkel is unusual.. she was in the Communist Youth because it was the only way to go in where she lived… studying Chemistry or any science a way of keeping out of politics if you were not really in favor of things… just like in the Marcos era where potential technocrats were watched but not as suspect as other intellectuals because they were “needed”, which I think is why DOST talents survived… there were Christian Democrats in East Germany but they were a “fake party” so that the German Democratic Republic could pretend there was an opposition, but she joined them as the daughter of a Protestant pastor… the NP was a similar “fake opposition” during the Marcos era BTW… real party careers and the money behind those organizations is better than oligarchs anyway.. political parties in Germany are funded by a) membership fees and b) money they get from the state in proportion to their parliamentary seats, Bill mentioned it is the same in Australia.. of course you have donors. Helmut Kohl was undone by “anonymous donors” that he refused to reveal… it was Merkel who led an internal revolution within the party to unseat Kohl… he patronized her but was patronizing… so it was payback time for her. Which proves that politics and power is a tough game anywhere in the real world.

                And I have seen something about East Germans… those who have lived under a dictatorship learn to hide their agenda well… it is a survival skill in such an environment. Becomes second nature even… as an ex-Marcos baby I had to learn to be forthright.

      • sonny says:

        @ Joe
        I strongly agree. This problem surfaced indirectly when the US faced the status of the friars of the Catholic Church. Specifically, What to do with their land holdings. A partial resolution was done by Howard Taft by negotiating with the Vatican and closed by the US paying $7.2 million for 166,000 hectares to the Vatican. Then the purchased lands were “returned” to Filipino tenants and the lion shares to Filipino estate holders. This model can be studied in our times and incorporated to what we know presently and with the technical tools (mainly satellite technology, in my opinion). The colonial initiative of the US at the beginning of the tutelage phase and motivation of America can still be appropriate to the current question with the difference being the Filipino national authority/sovereignty substituted for the US colonial counterpart. Another feature that must be used in the deliberation for the cadastral process is the use of the principle of eminent domain where the extreme difficulties of ownership claims are intractable using ordinary fairness to all claimants. There are other various partial models available that can be also be evaluated. The case of the Untouchables of India comes to mind: the state determination of property assignments using satellite technology; another, the US method employed by the County Register of Deeds uniformly applied at that level in each of the 50 states.

        If this inventory must be done, it must be done right. Easier said than done, I agree. But Filipinos can make this their true act of national will and sovereignty. It is for us to accomplish as a proud nation and country.

        • “It is for us to accomplish as a proud nation and country.” Yes.

          Do you know what I prize so much over here in the old (settlement was in the 7th century just after the Romans left, Romanized natives were incorporated into the government and dominated the clergy as the first settlers were uncouth and illiterate) agricultural and Catholic (only truly converted by the Irishman St. Kilian, I guess he knew how to drink that impresses the folks over here until now) Bavarian Free State, part of Federal Germany?

          ich spüre den festen Boden unter meinen Füßen – I feel the firm soil under my feet, in every sense of the word. The soil under the feet of Filipinos is NOT yet that firm, and leads to a lot of insecurity and the attitude of just getting by. How can people truly feel THIS IS OUR LAND if the question of land is not clarified? When that sense of firm soil and “our land” is achieved, next step is IMHO: THIS IS OUR STATE… Joe has outlined the priorities here:

        • Joe America says:

          You know, sonny, I am inspired to take this on as a special project, as it is something tangible a group of thinkers and systems savvy people could do that could be separated from anything political. Look up the laws and understand them. Line up the objections and deal with them. Line up the technology and preview it. I find there is a point at which discussing the social, cultural, political or operating character of the Philippines reaches a stall point, or a point of diminishing returns. There is no where to go with it, and Sisyphus could do with a break.

          • We have enough good people in the society to tackle this project Joe, although a lot more would be great 🙂

            • The potential core team is I think mostly in this comment thread.

              Some of the lawyers at Raissa’s could be asked for expert opinions, their skills finally put to better use than discussing Grace Poe’s citizenship in my opinion.

              • sonny says:

                If the NCSO could tackle such a formidable task of compiling our demography, I don’t see how our same governmental capability cannot tackle the technical portion of our land inventory and utilization. Seriously.

              • I think Diwata (the satellite) is on its way to the USA and will be launched in April.

                The recent updates to the island count (7500+ now) are also a sign that on the ground, there is also a lot being done… modern GIS (geographical information software) is also significant… I have seen the maps of DOST Project NOAH, the sensors they have placed all over the archipelago to measure everything necessary… in fact you are very right, the work started by the USA (island count, geodetics) may need to be continued… the work both the Spanish (Claveria decree, give natives surnames) and Americans (Census) started has been very well completed by NCSO, the people are now “catalogued”, the land is next. Modern PNP is completing what the Guardia Civil and Constabulary (originally an American institution, Crame was a Guardia Civil veteran) started, but not as occupiers anymore which until Marcos times they definitely were, but as the People’s Police. The consolidation of the postcolonial state into a People’s State is an ongoing project I think.

              • Hmm was wondering what if we try doing a bottom up type of National ID. Convince mayors/councils one by one to adapt a municipal ID similar to what Makati has. Let’s start with the 59 Million poor people covered by PhilHealth. Force the DSWD to force Philhealth to issue IDs for these people.

          • sonny says:

            I feel for Sisyphus, Joe. After all it started for him as a just request from the river god Asopus to spare Sisyphus’ kingdom some water for his subjects. Asopus’ response did not hold water. 🙂

            • is a South African comedy about a Coke bottle falling from “heaven” – a plane – into a simple tribal community.

              The “Gods” have been Crazy on our islands for centuries, but it seems that it was “Deo volante” that the “Gods” (white men) sent one of their own (Joe) to live with the tribes and “tribesmen” like us to live among the “Gods” – and put an end to confusion and craziness.

            • Joe America says:

              Hahaha, Asopus. What a name. What a guy. I like rivers, in the main.

              • sonny says:

                Just an aside. As part of Chicago’s drainage system (The Deep Tunnel) I am aware that a plumbing conduit (a main) some 15 feet in diameter runs 150 ft below my friend’s workplace. That’s 20-stories below street level! I am awed.

              • Here in Munich, they only recently filled up some tunnels leading from the Schlachthof (municipal matadero or slaughterhouse built in the early 1870s at the initiative of municipal councillor Zenetti, one of many eminent citizens of Italian descent in Munich and Bavaria, Verona is just 4 hours by train over the Brenner pass which even Caesar knew) to the Oktoberfest grounds… underground tunnels for water, drainage, electricity – possibly even phone and Internet (phone companies put up around 90 temporary masts during Oktoberfest so the millions of visitors can phone or surf properly but my Internet still goes slow because I am a neighbor) were all consolidated recently, something I saw on recent walks over there… including stairs and doors into the tunnels… what logistics…

                What I don’t believe is the stories some local people told me about some tunnels dating back to the 1705 revolt against the Austrians. The simple mountain farmers and their mayors who were behind that rebellion did not have the logistics to build tunnels that far, the hill where Hungarian horsemen massacred the last stand of the rebels, and where they had their base on the fateful days before Christmas Eve of 1705 is a bit too far away. But in tribal cultures, legends abound even into modern times. Just like the rebuilt Church of St. Margaret which the Hungarians burned to the ground shows the Husars as being very dark almost like Turks. Hungarians are not THAT dark… but were shown that way…

              • sonny says:

                Joe, Irineo,

                Gadzooks, Yes! German tunnels, Yay!

                Such legacies from the Roman Legions of yore. These civilizing machines, masters of the phalanxes and testudos, were also builders of Via Appias, fountains, baths and aqueducts and inventors of multinational citizenship (Seneca, Josephus, St. Paul, et al.). Their modern descendants are the civil engineers that do super drainage tunnels, earthquake-proof buildings, multi-level underground mass transports and freeways, ramps & exchanges. The Filipinos of late share this legacy as immigrant civil engineers in the great cities of the US. I feel the time is also ripe for the civil engineers of this archipelago to stand up and be counted and build the aqueducts, reservoirs and highways, concrete & cadastral, of our archipelago or at least think about it. The Bam Aquinos and Mar Roxases are legion among 100 million of us if we are willing to surface them.

              • Encarnacion, a business consultant who lives in the USA and was in Eastern Europe has made similar observations to me – that the Philippines is “parochial” – I have said insular.

                The first Filipinos to leave the islands and see something else were the ilustrados of the 19th century… There may be enough critical mass soon to make for – hopefully – gradual and sustained change. Unlike before where it was only a minority and the rest remained in Padre Damaso’s Dark Ages. Then it will no longer be the kind of place that made Ibarra fail and Simoun kill himself, make AntiPinoy hate his country, which according to Rizal many Filipinos did even before.

    • karlgarcia says:

      According to my mother,her grandmother lost a small island (Aman Pulo)to such powerful syndicates.
      I remember it was Honasan in the senate who first fought for NALUA,but yeah if the agrarian reform can be blocked for years,same fate for NALUA.

      • wjarko says:

        Sorry to hear that Karl. The people who grabbed your Grandma’s island are really cashing in on the cow.

        Awareness on NALUA has been really low, probably one of the biggest obstacle. Its too complex and wide ranging that it has implication just in anything socio-economic, but most pronounced in housing & food security (subdivisions vs rice fields, urban sprawl, illegal settlements), natural resources protection (forest, bodies of water, mining), industries, etc.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Thanks,I would be lying if I say that all is well. Sayang,nakapanghihinayang,but ganyan talaga.

          I think if we go the path of diirect democracy,without having to abolish congress.
          A revolution would not be necessary.Because the pattern is,those ousted just returns with a vengeance.

          Or if a whole nation,be judged by our global police like Iran.
          Iran,just got free from economic sanctions,now they are cashing in,and partnering with lost friends and making new ones,and went in a shopping spree and re armed them selves.

      • James de Valera says:

        Are you talking about the Pamalican island where Amanpulo resort is located? It is own by the Soriano family.

        • karlgarcia says:

          yup before the Sorianos owned the property,there was a long story behind that,is water under the bridge.

          • James de Valera says:

            I know Karlgarcia the Soriano bought it from a local politician in the nearby islands, but that island should be belong to the people of Manamoc the next island baranggay, I know why the name “pamalican” come from, I’ve been myself to both island even before the opening of Amanpulo doing philanthropy job travelling around Palawan, it is a beautiful part of the Philippines, but the Sorianos did a great job by converting the island into a world class resort otherwise the island would have been completely destroyed by squatters by now.

            • karlgarcia says:

              Hi James,I am actually very glad how the Sorianos and the Aboitizes turned into a tourist magnet with madonna being one of their guests. Anyways my mother just told me that story,she also heard it from her mother.the story is about 100 years old.

              I found a geneology of my grandmother.i can not find anything older.


              • karlgarcia says:

                i mean her older ancestors

              • sonny says:

                Neat, nephew! Keep digging. There is a payoff. Because of filial devotion, one of my uncles put my grandfather’s periodic (paulit-ulit) oral musings to paper and came up with our family tree that we can at least trace to 1835. We are now at La Union but we also know we started from Laoag, Ilocos Norte and Cavite province.

              • karlgarcia says:

                My mother and the,mother of Jim Paredes are first cousins.

              • The role of the Apo Hiking Society (originally the Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society but I guess that name was a bit too over the top since it’s inspiration was a polio victim hero, for those who don’t know Jim Paredes was its de facto driving force and is now politically very active) in inspiring the February Revolution might be largely forgotten… there was a concert where they cracked jokes about Marcos having both hidden wealth and hidden health before 1986… I have the LP “The Worst of Apo Hiking Society” where a part of that concert is included – corniness is an important force with Filipinos.

                It is like Bill in Oz once wrote – irreverence can break down fear of authority and it did.

  12. Jean says:

    The next step…

    This needs to get to the right people who;

    1.) can see it and the kinds future it implies
    2.) can comprehend its value
    3.) have a courageous heart to propose it
    4.) have an indomitable will to see it through

    If think you fall short, then hit the social media circuit and share it till your fingers bleed, hopefully it will find those who are up to the task

  13. Chenpo says:

    Joe you cover two diverse aspects here. First is about titling. Second is about land use..

    On titling I think in the context of Philippines a prerequisite is having a national ID in place. There are lots of other positive uses for nat ID regime which I won’t go into here.
    Another prerequisite is allowing married women to transact in their maiden name as a sole party. Nat ID helps in this instance. People just don’t appreciate the problems of women property owners who are separated from a monster hubby.

    Real estate titles are in 2 forms – common law titles and registered titles. Common law types are troublesome. Valid title is based on completion set of all legal transactions from day 1 to current date. These include all sales deeds over the years, mortgage docs and release, caveats and release etc. You miss one piece, title is invalid. A title can comprise on big crateful of docs. That’s why conveyancing is done thru lawyers. Most countries have now moved away from this
    The registered titles is what you suggest here. There is a central registrar and owners have a piece of paper which is a CTC certificate. This is not the title. Proof of title is by inspection of your name in the register. That’s why nat ID is critical. In the context of Philippines you need to have a mechanism for registered owners to be kept inform of any changes to the registered property such as a sale, a mortgage, pledge, change of owner address, etc.

    Much to write but my phone is so small

    • Joe America says:

      Work that keypad til your thumbs ache, Chempo. I agree land use and titling are different aspects, but they are related in that the titling has to be respectful of the land use delineations. A national ID raises a whole new issue, rather large. There are so many benefits but the ideologues and crooks are sure to object. Big brother and all that. A part of the difficulty with the proposal is what you say, the history of so many properties is non-existent or conflicted. I’ll put the ID idea into the thought jar.

    • edgar lores says:

      Common law types would be converted into registered titles as part of the process.

      • chempo says:

        Absolutely correct Edgar. It’s a conversion process. With registered titles proof of ownership is your name in the register. That’s worrisome considering the ingenuity of some to make names disappear or change

        • mercedes santos says:

          So, so true. A distant relation transferred one of my mom’s properties into her name; the bugger works at the land title’s office. How this happened is a mystery until we found out the head of the office was in cahoots with her. As to often this incident happens one can only say, INCREDIBLE. The story goes that someone made it appear that my mother’s property was pawned to a dead relative and that my mom never followed up the transaction. Talk about the dead still having a say in land disputes.

    • “Mortage docs and release”… I have seen old mortgage release documents from PNB…

      “Sangla” of land was and probably still is very common, to “pawn” the land as security for a loan of money… in Spanish times it was often Chinese merchants who had the role of the ones giving loans in return for “sangla”… the term must come from a Chinese dialect from the sound of it… certain Chinese families probably “had joss” or were lucky in that context. A sangla document from 1889 with a Chinese signature or “chop” at the bottom left… and in accordance with racial classifications of that time, the man is referred to as a “chino”.

      Click to access sangla_1889.pdf

  14. Madlanglupa says:

    Indeed, this complexity involving paper-based land titles made it difficult to resolve ownership problems which sometimes leads to two parties literally going after their throats, or complicating matters regarding agrarian land reform and redistribution, and land zoning (i.e. farmland on the edges of Metro Manila being turned into suburban sprawls and industrial parks).

  15. Vicara says:

    Had to look up provincial property today at the national office of the Land Registration Authority, where one gets certified true copies (the blue ones), near East Avenue in Quezon City. My previous visit in was in 2012. That was a bit chaotic, as the LRA–in addition to building renovations–was still in the process of amassing its digital storehouse of land titles and other records from the registrars of deeds from each local government unit nationwide (like the NSO with birth, marriage and death certificates). One had to search in the upper floors for the right window, then have them type in the number of your title.

    Even today, as then, one waits in dread, hoping that somehow they have the digitized title ready. Because if they don’t, it means you’ll have to contact the faraway provincial register of deeds (RD) somehow–by phone (hope it’s working), email (still not easy in some LGUs) or through some amiable relative who’s willing to visit a government office on your behalf. My visits to the window in 2012 for some reason always coincided with that of some irate elderly landowner insisting that the LRA simply MUST have their title on file, while the clerk would wearily–or sometimes testily–tell them that no, it’s not in the database.

    When this happens, one imagines all sorts of terrible things–that the provincial RD has lost the title, or that the RD will tell you it’s been eaten by termites or swept away by floods (possibly true, or possibly a variation on “the dog ate my homework”). Or–worst-case scenario–that it’s been snapped up by landgrabbers, who after all have been working for decades in collusion with LGU officials in the treasurer’s office, DAR, DENR, even the squatters on your land, etc, etc, and that your ancestral inheritance is gone forever. Thankfully, in 2013 I was already able to get blue copies of everything–thanks to digitalization.

    Today, I found some improvements made over the last three years: Instead of one having to wander in the upper reaches of the LRA, there’s a one-stop shop on the ground floor, and all the request, payment and claim windows are in one room. You can request certified true copies (CTCs) of your titled land, as well as Lot Surveys, and other documentation. The request, payment and issuance of my claim slip took me less than 15 minutes (it was a quiet hour).

    I’d had the advantage of having a blue copy of the title already on hand, which has a reference number; but because this had been issued by the provincial RD, I was informed that the LRA would have to request that the digitized title from the provincial government, and that I would have to check with the LRA in 4-5 working days to see if it had arrived. It was reassuring that the phone number was posted prominently at the window–I hate it when government officers dictate phone numbers for one to write down; one fears that it’s actually the number of a fixer in cahoots with the clerk. (In 2012, there were people who looked like fixers milling around.)

    And then: At the Lot Survey window I was told that I would have to go to an upstairs office after all; there, a woman said that there was no record of the Lot Survey I was looking for in the database and that I would have to request it from the provincial RD myself. She looked defensive; I suspect the people at this window have to deal with a lot of emotional reactions. But the walls were freshly painted, the bathrooms were clean, the elevator worked, and there were actually fewer people and less of a feeling of chaos than I remember from the previous visit.

    As in the BIR, at the ground level things seem to be working a bit more smoothly and more transparently than before. But also–as with the BIR–one has the sense that old crooked systems can be easily resurrected. Maybe they let the small fry citizens go hassle-free for now under this administration–the Ombudsman’s office is literally round the corner from the LRA and other agencies–but who knows what’s being planned behind the scenes.

    Good governance is a fragile thing, and the results of this presidential election will determine whether it will continue to gain traction. Or not.

    • Before the recent conversion of the provincial capitol in Pasig City to a high end development and commercial center called the The Capitol Commons, the Register of Deeds was located in that compound. It was there that we verified the title of the small subdivision lot (200 sqm) we were planning to buy then, way back 1980’s. We provided the photocopy of the title and the helpful RD staff took out the book bound copies of the original TCTs. Using a ruler, we compared the data line by line, and investigated all pages for any annotations re previous sale, and other encumbrances. We paid in full for the lot after we confirmed the title as clean, and in fairness, were able to process the transfer the title to us without any hitch, none of the others’ complains about the RD asking for a particular brand of perfume before providing assistance. We were fortunate enough that time to find an honest government worker then. Same with the additional 200 sqm lot we bought for the young ones in 2007 for almost 2M. Aaaarggh, we bought the same size of lot for 50K in 1980.

    • This topic reminded me that we still have to process the title transfer of the agricultural/residential lot we bought in Batangas so we can have addtional land to farm when we retire, aside from the ones we inherited from my maternal grandparents. Work load and deadlines led me to forget. A year or so ago, we spent one whole day going back and forth from Tanauan City to Lipa City to finalize the Deed, tax clearances and certificates from the Assessor, RD and notary public. We had to search for a bank that was still open at 4:00 pm to pay the documentary stamps, capital gains tax etc. and by the time we were able to return to the RD with all the requirements, it’s almost 5:00 pm. Until now we were not able to go back to Lipa City.

  16. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Grace Poe wanted Ferdinand Marcos burried in Libingan ng Bayani

    She’ll do anything to garner votes from Imelda’s turf and Marcos turf! THIS WILL DO HER IN !!!

  17. Joe America says:

    Thanks to Vicara and Mercedes for pointing me in new directions. Just a brief on a few things:

    The Philippines has a title digitization effort under way as an outgrowth of e-commerce legislation passed in 2004 or thereabouts.

    Here are two notes that announce the effort by the company providing the service:

    And here is a brief that shows the program has generated some problems and confusion:

    I’ll try to find more updates and background.

    The Land Registration Authority is a part of the Department of Justice, that being rather weird itself and attesting to the antiquated notion that land transfers are big officious deals. I think our project goal would be to make land a commodity, easily peddled or used as security for loans.

  18. As someone studying urban planning, I couldn’t agree more with all your suggestions! I really hope that the National Land Use Act will be passed. It will complement with the already-passed act creating the housing and urban development department.

  19. karlgarcia says:

    So that legislation would not just be at the hand of the legislators,let us make the environment conducive for plebiscites.First maybe a million signature campaign to allow legislaton by plebiscite.
    Chacha can be done via plebiscite,
    The anti dynasty law,national id,national land use act,land reform,many pending legislation.
    The comelec will now add this to their Mission Order.
    The legislators can’t complain,their load would be lighter,no more excuses for not prioritizing.

    • We should improve the signature campaign process. National ID coupled with a kiosk application in all municipalities administered by the Comelec. All signature campaign will need would be a swipe or tap of our rfid/microchip cards and a biometric reading would affix our digital signature to a signature campaign of our choice. This allows even small interest groups to focus on information dissemination/advertising instead of the infrastructure for signature campaigns.

  20. Joe,

    I was surprise with how beaches were considered part of property over there, beaches were cordoned off with barb-wire and the “resorts” had security guards. Is this also the norm in your neck of the woods there?

    • Madlanglupa says:

      Considering the current state of peace and order, it’s typical, especially when protecting tourists.

    • Joe America says:

      It depends on how many guns the beach property owner has, or thugs he employs. A beach property extends to half the distance between high and low tide, I believe. So beaches are public property half the day if you are down by the water. That’s technical, though, and nobody knows or considers that. So in effect, the beach is controlled by the land owner.

  21. karlgarcia says:

    In the states your social security is your national id.Here we must merge gsis sss first to have ine pension system, we already have biometric info on Our voters Info.These all can be done,if we want them to be done.

    • Joe America says:

      That is a superb idea, to take the voters ID technology and extend it to every citizen.

      • karlgarcia says:

        The general problem here is when agencies change IT vendors.The NBI changes IT suppliers,you always have to start from scratch.Same with other agencies,they have no migration systems,always start from scratch.

        • The major issue with most FVR era IT deals is that in the case of LTO and NBI the service providers were providing a service which in those cases were license and registration/ NBI clearance.

          The arrangement of these agencies were they were renting/leasing the IT infrastructure and software. This is wrong in so many levels. In the case of NBI the provider I believe claimed that they owned the data contained within their systems.

          Well we the citizens own our data.

          Those providers either pulled a fast one over the agencies’ IT people or the IT people were in cahoots with this one sided arrangement.

  22. Bing Garcia says:

    I wish to thank Raissa Robles for her important book.

    • NHerrera says:

      There is somehow a synergy in the two blogsites — Raissa’s and Joe’s — in the current blog topics: Raissa’s Martial Law and Joe’s land titling and land use. In this sense: a Martial Law regime of a Marcos/BBM kind or a Duterte kind will not make for the success of the idea such as discussed here — difficult enough under a Pnoy or even a Roxas Presidency but more probable of success under it than one in a Martial Law regime. (Or perhaps I am wrong. A Duterte pushing for Joe’s idea RATHER THAN pushing for the impossible stop to corruption and drug crimes in 3-6 months is probably what is needed.)

      • mercedes santos says:

        Oh come on Mr, Herrera, you don’t really mean that !! A dong in Malacañang, honestly ??

        • NHerrera says:

          Right. Honestly, I don’t want that “dong” in Malacanang. Just saying that is probably easier for a so-called strong decisive man to push the idea of Joe about land titling and land use than, my goodness, doing the impossible — stopping corruption, crime and drug crimes in 3-6 months.

  23. karlgarcia says:

    Just a twelve page Policy Brief about NALUA

    Click to access PB%202013-01%20-%20NaLUA.pdf

    • sonny says:

      Nephew, D. Burnham and Howard Taft surfaced the modern beauty that was to be Manila and Baguio, the capitals of the Philippines in the summer and the rest of the year. The lush vegetation Burnham found in his Philippine trip found expression in the way he melded greenery and the columns and concrete of classic architecture. The city plans of Manila alluded to Mr Palafox are housed in the Chicago Art Institute, in Chicago as the architecture Mecca of the modern city.

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  1. […] already has identified the messed-up situation when it comes to land and lack of opportunity as major factors that need to be addressed for the well-being of most […]

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