Rod turns to hlurb to clarify contrasting opinions on subdivision projects

BAGUIO CITY – Acting Baguio City Registrar of Deeds Rodil Rivera, in a letter dated May 8, 2018, sought advice from Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) Regional Officer Teresita Galacgac, hoping to end "differences of opinion" between his office and the members of the City Council on the registration of subdivision projects.

This, to put an end to "allegations of mal- or misfeasance" lodged against the Registry of Deeds (ROD); and, to protect "what taxes and fees are due to the City of Baguio from transactions involving subdivision projects."

He stressed, the HLURB opinion on the matter would prevent possible circumvention of law by real estate developers avoiding payment of lawful fees to the City.

Specifically, Rivera asked Galacgac to clarify "what subdivisions are exempt from the requirement of approval of preliminary as well as final subdivision schemes and development plans;" "who determines whether or not a subdivision is exempted from the required approval of subdivision projects;" and, can the ROD on his own "exempt subdivisions from the requirement of approval ... where the intent of such subdivision is to sell the lots therein."

Rivera was the subject of complaints from certain residents, among them lawyer Frisco Domalsin who told the Council the ROD refused to issue titles despite submission of complete requirements.

Rivera explained, as part of the monitoring team created under Ordinance No. 19 series of 2009, he forwarded a dozen requests for registration of subdivision plans to the City Council for its approval.

Ordinance No. 19 series of 2009 provides for "Guidelines in Monitoring Subdivisions and other Real Estate Development in the City of Baguio and Penalties for Violations Thereof."

Apparently, the bunch of documents forwarded to the City Council included an application for registration of a subdivision project presented by Domalsin before the ROD.

"To our mind," explained Rivera, "Section 1 of Executive Order No. 71 and Section 4 of Presidential Decree 957 covered the requests, which is why we advised concerned presenters to seek City Council approval payment of fees first before registration of their subdivision projects with our office."

He said that based on said laws, he saw "no distinction as to whether a subdivision is 'simple' or 'complex' in order that the requirement for approval by the (City Government) should be had or otherwise be waived."

The City Council is of the opinion that the Ordinance No. 19-2009 applies only to commercial subdivisions and not to simple subdivisions. It even passed a resolution informing the ROD, simple subdivisions no longer require their approval.

But Rivera said, as part of the monitoring team created under the same ordinance, he "is lost as to the bases" of said council stand.

He appealed to the HLURB, "We hope that you could aid us in addressing the differences of opinion between the ROD and members of the City Council so that the escalation of any controversy whenst there should be none, could finally be put to an end."

He lamented, "Unfortunately, our point-of-view courted controversy to the point of unnecessary allegations of mal- or misfeasance against our office which is now being 'investigated in aid of legislation' by the City Council."

In a separate letter to the City Council dated May 4, Rodil said he intended to appear as requested before the City Council once he is given copies of the complaints.

He claimed, "We have unnecessarily been dragged into a controversy where we were vilified and unfairly judged in the court of public opinion without due process of law."

He assured, "[We] shall properly deal with our accusers in the proper forum, in the proper time... if only to clear our names."

"If we are stringent and are taking time with some transaction, it is because of our desire to protect the City of Baguio from the proliferation of questionable transfers, insertions and spurious registrations that has hounded the previous registrars," he said.

He said he wants to preserve what is left of the City so he participates actively in cases involving the protection of the City's environment and has been steadfast in resisting attempts to insert documents in their registration system over some lands, the latest of which involves some six-hectare property in Outlook Drive.

During the Council session Monday, Domalsin was advised to submit a sworn complaint against the ROD, which the body will attach to an invitation for the Registrar to appear before it to answer the charges. – Aileen P. Refuerzo

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