Covington: Why there are fixers – Part 1

JUAN dela Cruz has sold a plot of land and is now engaged in transferring the ownership at the Register of Deeds. To effect this Juan needs to present the original Transfer Certificate of Title, a deed of sale, a certified copy of the latest Declaration of Real Property, a Treasurer’s Office Tax Clearance, a Treasury Office transfer fee receipt and the green light from the Bureau of Inland Revenue in the form of a Certificate Authorizing Registration.

Juan fell in line to submit his documents, fell in line again at the cashiers to pay another transfer fee (There’s two!) and left, hardly suspecting that there was one word on one document the Register of Deeds wouldn’t like.

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A couple of weeks later Juan returned only to find his transfer of ownership gummed up in the works – ‘pending’ in Register of Deeds-speak — there was a glitch, the ‘actual use’ of the property described on the Declaration of Real Property was down as ‘agrl’ — and no agricultural land may be sold and passed on without (a), permission from the Department of Agrarian Reform or (b), the ‘actual use’ changed by the Assessor’s Office from ‘agrl’ to ‘resdl’. Apply for same at the Assessor’s Office.

Over the road the Assessor’s Office was most helpful – yes, no problem but we’ll need a letter of request from the owner, a Treasurer’s Office Realty Tax Clearance, the latest Declaration of Real Property and a Zoning Certificate.

Zoning Certificate? Yes, you get that from the City Planning and Development Office.

Over the road the Planning Office was most helpful — yes, no problem, but we’ll need a duly accomplished application form, a copy of the surveyor’s plan, a vicinity map, a photocopy of your cedula and the Transfer Certificate of Title or a certified copy.

But the title is with the Register of Deeds.

Then you’ll have to apply for a certified copy at the, um, Register of Deeds.

Over the road the Register of Deeds was most helpful — Juan filled in a request form upstairs, paid the fee downstairs, return in five working days.

Five days later Juan returned, went upstairs to find that, ahh, your request is pending (There’s a glitch), enquire on the middle floor.

Catch 22. The Planning Office requires a certified copy of the title to issue a zoning certificate but the ‘system’ at the Register of Deeds does not allow a certified copy to be issued if a transaction is taking place — i.e., if the owner’s copy of the title is in the works.

The solution — withdraw all of the documents from the Register of Deeds, do the biz at the Planning Office and then re-submit the documents to the Register of Deeds. Dear God. Fortunately there was someone with a bit of gumption at the Register of Deeds and after a bit of shuffling from office to office a certified copy of Juan’s title was produced which, after all, is only run off a computer and then thumped with a rubber stamp. Juan dashed over to the Planning Office to present his documents.

Over the road the Planning Office was most helpful, logged in Juan’s documents and presented an invoice for same but — The Planning Office doesn’t have a cashier, please pay a Treasury Office cashier over at the SP.

Over the road at the SP it was by now 11:30 a.m. and January — packed with folks processing their business permits and yet, incredibly, only one cashier’s window out of seven was open for business. It too closed at lunchtime.

The next day, earlier, about 9:30 a.m., again incredibly, there was still only one cashier out of seven open. There were folks behind other windows but what were they doing? Cashing up? Balancing the books?

Juan asked the priority number guy — why is there only one cashier?


Past 11 a.m. Juan’s number came up — 90 minutes wait for a two minute transaction – and he rushed over to the Planning Office before they shut and bolted the doors for lunch.

The next day Juan returned to the Planning Office to collect his Certificate of Zoning. It read ‘Per City Ordinance No 4042, Series of 1996… the parcel of land… is within Medium Density Residential Zone (R-2).

Now why doesn’t the Assessor’s Office and the Register of Deeds know about this 1996 ordinance? The certificate states ‘is’ — not ‘is changed’, ‘is amended’ or ‘is reclassified’. All four agencies have computers – don’t they talk to each other? Why isn’t there some sort of blanket instruction which states that all lots within such and such boundaries are now classed as residential? Why is Juan dela Cruz made to run about like an idiot for a couple of weeks between four agencies and… but he’s not finished yet. Now for the Assessor’s Office to apply for a reclassified Declaration of Real Property.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 25, 2011.

One comment


    If he was done when those items were finished, life would be to easy in the PI.

    Let us not forget the review of the sales contract. The “official” sales contract (unlike the one you paid the lawyer to write). Certification that the taxes have been paid.

    SO, NOW YOU HAVE YOUR TITLE! good?… Maybe. In the Philippines no title insurance is offered or title search is even possible. What this means is that even though the deed at the bureau of deeds claims that you, today, have no liens against your property, virtually anybody can make a “claim”, using documents of dubious accuracy, and get that claim registered against your property, and have it remain until the courts have decided.

    See it as you will. My mother in law moved from her mothers house in San Fernando (Cebu) when she was 16 to live in Labangon. When I met her she remarked that her cousin had managed to get a deed at the house her mother died in. Inheritance is fixed in the Philippines and she should have got that small house when her mom died, but did not “follow up” the paperwork. Now, some 45 years later she challenged the title, against the new owners ( her cousin sold), and after some 4 years in court.. SHE WON! the title that the new owners purchased was USELESS.

    When in Dipolog, I had the idea that I wanted to live on a farm. I went to communities where I thought I would like to live and after several months I located the sweetest 10 Ha that I could imagine. Rolling hills with a year around stream near Labason. My dream was to plant Mahogony and this was PERFECT!

    I made an offer, P230,000, slightly over the going rate at the time. I was to RENT it for 25 years, from a Filipino friend of mine who would be the legal owner. My friend also signed a loan document that exceeded the value of the land. Offer accepted, I paid a P50,000 down payment as I had to make a bank transfer from the USA for the remainder. 100% of this transaction was supervised by a local lawyer. The paper work was in good order and the title matched the one at the Bureau of deeds.

    Just after making my down payment I returned to the property to lay out my planting scheme and low and behold a guy was plowing “MY” land.

    This sent me on a long search only to find that the guy who sold me that parcel did not own it as he has sold it to agrarian reform in exchange for them to not incumber 4 other parcels his family owned, just 3 weeks earlier.

    Why was the title still in his name you ask? Because Agrarian Reform has all the time they need to perform the actual paperwork, and the rule “first to register is first to own” applies to people not the government.

    Like everything else in the Philippines, it is not the law that counts but who you are and know.

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