June 04, 2014

SC to Ombudsman: File graft charges vs land-title scammer

In a final and executory ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to file graft charges against a ranking official of the Land Registration Authority for tampering with 39 titles covering condominium units in Ortigas Center in Pasig City.

In an Entry of Judgment dated April 1, 2014 but released to the media only recently, the High Court said the order for the Ombudsman to file a complaint for violation of Sections 3(a) and (e) of Republic Act 3019 against Pasig City Register of Deeds Policarpio Espenesin and private respondent Francis Serrano has become “final and executory and is hereby recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgments.”

The entry was signed by Corazon delos Reyes, SC’s Second Division deputy clerk of court and chief of the Judicial Records Office.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Portugal Perez, the High Tribunal found Espenesin guilty of grave misconduct and imposed upon him “the penalty of dismissal from service.”
Espenesin’s retirement pay and benefits were also ordered forfeited by the High Court.

Serrano worked for the Yuchengco-owned Malayan Insurance Co., while Espenesin headed the Pasig Registry of Deeds. The case arose from the complaint filed by Oscar Ampil who claimed that Malayan president Yvonne Yuchengco, treasurer Gema Cheng and Serrano connived with Espenesin in replacing or “snopaking” the name of “ASB Realty Corporation” with Malayan Insurance on the 39 titles.

Ampil’s complaint stated that the titles cover condominium units at the posh Malayan Plaza in Ortigas Center. ASB Realty Corporation, Ampil claimed, was erased and replaced with Malayan Insurance.
His complaint was previously dismissed by the anti-graft office for insufficiency of evidence.
But Ampil, a creditor of ASB, which claimed to have interest in the condo units, sought redress with the High Court.

It was learned that Malayan Plaza is a joint venture between Malayan Insurance and ASB Realty Corporation.

The Plaza was initially developed by ASB in the mid 1990s but Malayan Insurance, which owned the land, assumed and eventually finished construction of the condo units.

The altered titles were supposed to be part of ASB’s share in saleable areas of the Plaza based on a memorandum of agreement it executed with Malayan.

Editors note: This article was published on Manila Times