the friar lands of the philippines

Solution to 'friar lands'
dispute looms

By Irish Lorraine V. Miraflor

A HOUSE bill seeking the resolution of all ownership issues over
parcels of land comprising the Banilad Friar Lands Estate yesterday
gained the support of three congressmen and officials of several
homeowners associations.

At a public hearing on House Bill 4400, its author, Rep. Raul del Mar
(Cebu City, north district) said the proposal was inspired by
Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal's letter to him on April 19.

The bill seeks to declare and confirm the validity of transfer
certificates of title and reconstituted certificates of title covering
the so-called Banilad Friar Lands Estate located in the first district
of Cebu City.

"I would like to bring to your attention a very disturbing situation
which may bring havoc and disrupt the stability of a very large segment
of the Cebuano community," Vidal said in his letter.

"Real estate, commercial and banking transactions may be brought to a
standstill, which could adversely affect the economic activities in
Cebu. Harassment suits with the sole purpose of extorting money which
the Church has already experienced will multiply."

The cardinal added: "The titles of a vast tract of land known as the
Banilad Friar Lands, which are entirely in the north district of Cebu
City, containing an area of around 19 million square meters, or 1,900
hectares, are placed in a cloud of doubt."

The prelate explained that titles of and ownership over the Banilad
Friar Lands had been "placed in a cloud of doubt" since the files were
with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office and
remained unsigned by the secretaries of the departments of interior and
local government, agriculture, and natural resources.

The Friar Lands Act, or Republic Act 1120, states that the lack of
signature of the Secretary of Interior or Agriculture and Natural
Resources is not adequate and sufficient to question the titles and
ownership of friar lands.

The signed copies had already been surrendered to the Register of Deeds
but could not be produced because these were all destroyed in World War

Two friar lands are situation in Cebu-one in Banilad and another
between Talisay and Minglanilla.

The Banilad Friar Lands Estate was acquired by the Insular Government
of the Philippines in January 1909, while the other was secured in July

According to the Land Management Bureau, there are 23 friar lands in
the country located in the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite,
Bataan, Rizal, Isabela, Mindoro, and Cebu.

These properties, comprising around 164,127 hectares bought by the
government on December 22, 1903, were supposed to be distributed among
undisclosed settlers.

Present during the public hearing yesterday were Reps. Eduardo Gullas
(Cebu, first district), Ramon Durano VI (fifth district), and
Leovigildo Banaag (Agusan del Norte).

Gullas called House Bill 4400 as "very timely," while Durano explained
that "the constitutionality of the bill will erase great doubts over
the ownership of the lands."

Reps. Simeon Kintanar (Cebu, second district), Nerissa Soon-Ruiz (sixth
district), and Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) were invited
to the affair but failed to attend due to prior commitments.