Press Release
October 8, 2006

Are government lawyers sitting on
P10 billion Fort Boni land scam case?

Are government lawyers sitting on the P10 billion land scam that implicated members of the Navy Officers' Village Association Inc. (NOVAI) at the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation who allegedly used a forged signature of then Executive Secretary Franklin Drilon?

Drilon, now Liberal Party (LP) president and chairman of the Senate Finance and Public Order Committees, expressed concern that the case has remained dormant and asked Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura to update him on the status of the case.

Drilon's move must have been triggered by the recent ruling of the Supreme Court that retired military and police officers who had remained in their quarters at the 40-hectare Jusmag compound at Fort Bonifacio beyond the 60-day limit for vacating a dwelling on separation from the service should leave the property.

After the SC ruling on the Jusmag case, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed confidence that the sale of the property would finally push through. The AFP and the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) said they were now free to dispose of the property.

The BCDA reportedly plans to sell the property for around P12 billion, of which 30 percent, or roughly P3.6 billion, would go to the modernization fund of the AFP.

In a letter to Nachura, Drilon asked for "an update on the case of the Republic of the Philippines versus NOVAI and the Register of Deeds of Pasig City for Cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-15387 and docketed as Civil Case No. 63983."

"Please be informed that I took a personal interest in said case in as much as one of the signatures forged to cause the transfer and titling of the property subject of the dispute was my signature," Drilon told Nachura.

On November 17, 2004, Drilon testified before the sala of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Mercedes Lacap and supported the charges by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that NOVAI officers allegedly used "fraud and misrepresentation" in procuring a land title covering some 47.5 hectares at Fort Bonifacio.

"Former President Corazon C. Aquino and I, as her then Executive Secretary, never signed and issued any presidential proclamation that authorized the disposition of this land in Fort Bonifacio," Drilon said.

During direct examination by prosecution lawyer Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Tang, Drilon "testified that Proclamation No. 2487 could not have been issued by former President Aquino since the last Proclamation issued during her term was Proclamation No. 932 dated 19 June 1992."

"Certainly, there is public interest involved here as this involves P10 billion worth of public property for which these Navy officers paid for only P360,000. This is grossly prejudicial to public interest," Drilon said.

Records of the case showed in December 1993, the OSG filed two criminal cases against NOVAI for alleged "Falsification of a Public Document" and "Forging the Signature of the Chief of Executive" as well as a civil case seeking to cancel the NOVAI land title and recovering the same in behalf of the state.

NOVAI is a private corporation registered with the Home Insurance and Guarantee Corporation and is made up of retired and active Navy officers who are occupants of the parcel of land in Fort Bonifacio that is the subject of the criminal and civil cases.

The prosecution claimed that NOVAI was able to secure the Fort Bonifacio title by using fraud and misrepresentation when it presented an alleged fictitious Deal of Sale purportedly signed by Land Management Bureau Director Abelard Paled Jr. on Nov. 15, 1991 in favor of the respondents. Paled has testified in court that he did not sign the said Deed of Sale.

At the same time, the Office of the Solicitor General alleged that NOVAI officials presented a fake document supposed to contain Proclamation Order No. 2487 and signed by President Aquino and Drilon. The said order, purportedly signed in Sept. 25, 1991, was supposed to authorize the transfer and titling of the Fort Bonifacio land in favor of NOVAI. Drilon was supposed to have signed the proclamation by virtue of his being President Aquino's Executive Secretary in 1991.

The complaint against NOVAI was filed after the Malacañang Records Division reported that no such Proclamation Order No. 4287 was ever issued by President Aquino and that the land title being claimed by NOVAI was in fact transferred to the Bases Convention Development Authority (BCDA) in 1992.

In the Jusmag case, a group composed of the officers' wives, the Southside Homeowners Association Inc. (SHAI), had claimed to have bought the property in the 1990s for 11.9 million pesos.

The Supreme Court ruling "reversed and set aside" a Court of Appeals decision upholding SHAI's ownership of the property.

In ending the 15-year dispute over the prime Jusmag property inside the 39.99-hectare compound, the high court also chided the military leadership for earlier ordering eviction operations despite the fact the tribunal had yet to rule on the matter.

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