June 04, 2014

Policarpio Espenesin Penalized by Supreme Court for snopaking of 38 condominium titles

The recently retired registrar of Pasig, Policarpio Espenesin, has been penalized with forfeiture of retirement benefits by the Supreme Court for having facilitated the snopaking of 38 condominium titles of Malayan Plaza in Ortigas in favor of landlord Malayan Insurance Co.

A Malayan lawyer, Francis Serrano, was also ordered to stand trial before the Sandiganbayan along with Espenesin for having allegedly induced the latter to make the alterations despite the titles having already been registered in the name of ASB, Malayan's joint venture partner and contractor.

The Malayan action came ahead of the conclusion of the arbitration proceedings which will determine how many of the contested units would be awarded to either of the two partners. Malayan and ASB have been feuding over construction costs, after the Asian currency crisis forced Malayan to assume the completion of the condo project with ASB Group having fallen into financial difficulties.

Espenesin had earlier been cleared by the Ombudsman, but the Second Division of the Supreme Court, in overruling the anti-graft prosecutor, said Espenesin's mistake could not be dismissed as a "simple error" as the registrar had claimed.

"We are baffled by the Registrar of Deed's failure to require documentation as his basis for his correction," said Justice Jose Perez, on the defense of Espenesin that the CCTs had not yet been released to ASB prior to the snopaking.

"The change in the titleholder in the CCTs from ASB to MICO was an official documentation of a change of ownership," especially with the titles already entered in the Registration Book of the Register of Deeds, Perez said in a decision released last month.

"Reliance on the mere word of even the point person for the transaction smacks of gross negligence" since any erasure, alteration or amendment on land and condo titles needs a court order, he added.

The high tribunal also sustained the dismissal of the criminal complaint against Malayan Insurance president Yvonne Yuchengco and former treasurer Gema Cheng for lack of evidence.