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Legacy landgrab? Town loses island

By Ferliza Contratista, Freeman News Service
Updated February 27, 2009 12:00 AM

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CEBU , Philippines  – A town in Leyte has become the latest entity to go after Celso de los Angeles and his failed Legacy Group of 12 rural banks and three pre-need companies, and this time the complaint is not about questionable financial dealings but alleged land-grabbing.

Officials and residents of the 3rd class municipality of Palompon denounced on Wednesday the alleged illegal transfer of ownership of Kalanggaman Island from that of the town to the Rural Bank of Carmen, one of the banks owned by De los Angeles.

Palompon municipal legal consultant Donna Villa Gapasan said town residents, accompanied by members of the media, braved guards and armed men detailed by De los Angeles at the so-called “Boracay of Leyte” and held a protest rally on the 10-hectare strip of land located 12 kilometers off the municipal shoreline.

According to Gapasan, De los Angeles started claiming the island in 2003 and by 2004 reportedly had a Deed of Sale to show ownership of the island, which the people of Palompon said had been part of the town since “time immemorial.”

During the rally, the protesting residents managed to erect a sign proclaiming the town’s ownership of the disputed island. The guards and armed men did not intervene.

“CA 141 and PD 705 assert that Kalanggaman Island is not private property; it is unclassified, inalienable and a public forest,” the sign said.

Gapasan said that in 2006, De los Angeles transferred “ownership” of Kalanggaman Island to the Rural Bank of Carmen and then late last year, just two months before the bank and others in the Legacy Group declared bank holidays, the “ownership” again moved from the bank to a private realty firm based in Manila.

Not surprisingly, the private firm, Edifice Realty and Development Corp., is also an affiliate of the Legacy Group of De los Angeles. Edifice appears in the latest tax declaration for Kalanggaman Island as the owner.

Gapasan said that according to records, all of Palompon’s legal, legislative and administrative initiatives to maintain territorial jurisdiction over Kalangggaman fell through when De los Angeles succeeded in acquiring ownership by producing a Deed of Absolute Sale from heirs of a certain Andres Toring in 2003.

The document declared that a total of 2,696 square meters of coconut land situated in Kalanggaman was sold by the Toring heirs to De los Angeles and a certain Joel Retuya for P200,000.

A case background provided by Palompon municipal information officer Rezza Boy Omega showed that the town, assuming all the while to be the rightful owner of the island, found out only 10 years prior to the sale that a private person (Toring) from Bogo, Cebu has been claiming ownership of Kalanggaman on the strength of Tax Declaration 12819.

The town further learned that prior to Toring, the name of a certain Pablo Sitoy appeared in a 1950 tax declaration as owner. By 1974, the ownership transferred to a certain Agripino Ensoy, although no record could now be found to validate that transfer.

In 1979, a Deed of Absolute Sale was executed, this time conveying the land from Ensoy to Toring.

Since 1993, the Municipality passed several legislative measures asserting its firm claim over the island. These resolutions include repeated requests to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources not to declare Kalanggaman as alienable and disposable, being part of public domain under territorial jurisdiction; and requesting the Environmental Management and Protected Areas Services to evaluate and declare Kalanggaman as a Marine Protected Area; and yet another resolution requesting the Department of Tourism to evaluate Kalanggaman Island for tourism purposes.

After the transfer to De los Angeles, the municipality again asserted its claim of jurisdiction and ownership by approving resolutions expressing opposition to survey plans and application for land titling filed by De los Angeles and authorizing then Palompon Mayor Marcelo Oñate to initiate measures to further the claim and other efforts.

De los Angeles, agitated by the moves of the town, sued officials before the Office of the Ombudsman but the complaints were all dismissed.

He also sought declaratory relief and injunction from the Regional Trial Court in Palompon but these petitions were also denied.

In 2006, De los Angeles and his lawyer, Pinky Noel, appeared before the Palompon municipal council and apologized for his actions. He then proposed to develop the island into a resort and got himself a memorandum of agreement to proceed with the development.

Legacy lawyer Inocencio de la Cerna, who represents the company in the close to P14.4-billion claims made by depositors, refused to speak on the issue, saying he is not the lawyer assigned to handle the case.

BSP files new case

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) filed with the Department of Justice charges of syndicated estafa against Delos Angeles Jr. and other Legacy officers. The charges filed yesterday represented the third wave of cases lodged by the BSP against the Legacy Group.

The BSP also asked the Justice department to include the respondents in the hold departure list of the Bureau of Immigration.

Named respondents in the latest set of cases aside from Delos Angeles are his consultant Alexis Petralba; Namnama Pasetes, chief finance officer of Legacy Consolidated Plan Inc.; and Carolina Hinola, chief executive officer of LCPI.

Also named respondents were Roy Hilario, president of Fusion Capital Corp., his assistant Bruce Rafanan and Virgilio Odejar, president of the Rural Bank of Parañaque.

The BSP said Legacy’s Rural Bank of DARBCI, with offices in General Santos City and Cebu, raised P830 million in deposits but its cash position shrank to less than P1 million as of Sept. 30, 2008, based on records.

Cease-and-desist order

Meanwhile, the SEC issued an order preventing six companies under the Legacy Group Inc. from selling any of their properties and assets without the corporate watchdog’s consent, and from further selling investment contracts to the public.

The cease and desist order dated Feb. 26 covered Legacy Consolidated Plans, Legacy Card Inc., Galaxy Realty & Holdings Inc., Shining Armor Property Inc., One Realty Corp. and One Card Co.

“There is an urgent need to preserve the properties and other assets of these corporations and their affiliates to prevent them from being dissipated and ensure the settlement of corporate obligations and of planholders’ and investors’ claims,” SEC said.

The SEC also filed more cases against Legacy for violation of the Securities Regulation Code and the Corporation Code of the Philippines.

“The act of Legacy Card (formerly Legacy Group Inc.) in issuing post dated checks to secure the payment or return of the investments solicited by Legacy Consolidated Plans Inc. was in excess of the primary purpose for which it was incorporated,” the SEC said in its 22-page complaint filed with the Department of Justice. “As such, the said act is ultra vires and amounts to misrepresentation as to what the corporation can or cannot do,” it added.

One Realty, on the other hand, was accused by SEC of acting as the business conduit of Legacy Consolidated Plans inc. in its grand scheme to defraud the investing public.

Lost trust funds

At least 200 recruitment agencies face suspension from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency for losing some P200 million of their trust funds invested in Legacy Groupís double-your-money scheme.

Ramon Dino, head of the Legacy Group Citizens Watch Center, said at a press conference that the “fund amounting to P200 million was transferred from the Asia Trust Bank to the Rural bank of Parañaque (RBOP) without POEA approval and now the RBOP is bankrupt and closed.”

“These recruitment agencies may have again to raise another P1 million each for cash bonds deposit as required by law,” he said.

Dino said thousands of foreign job recruits may not be able to leave because the licenses of their recruitment agencies may be suspended or cancelled by the POEA.

Dino also belittled the cases filed against the Legacy Group and its officials, saying they are bailable offenses.

“If no cases of syndicated swindling will be initiated by the central bank, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. and SEC in the next few weeks against Angeles and his cohorts, then clearly there is a cover up,” he said. — With Iris Gonzales Zinnia dela Peña, Edu Punay, and Perseus Echeminada

(Note: in order to make the article more readable, the article was edited ONLY for proper punctuation marks)

February 27, 2009 - Posted by | Philippine Newspapers/Web News | , , , ,

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