EDITORIAL: Astounding claim

SUDDENLY, a family claiming to be the heirs of an official during the Spanish period made an astounding declaration of ownership to 117 hectares of land that sprawl from Triangulo to Concepcion Pequeña, two of the most populated and developed barangays in Naga City. The declaration of ownership by the heirs of Hermogenes Rodriguez, the gobernadorcillo of Manila in the 1800s, baffled the present property owners, including the city government, because of the sheer magnitude of the claim, and the origin of the claim that dates back 41 years before our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was born. Supposedly, the claim of the heirs of Hermogenes Rodriguez originated from Royal Decree No. 01-4 issued by Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1826, according to Rene Gomez, one of those who spoke in behalf of the heirs of Rodriguez during the press conference held last week. However, even assuming the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the heirship of the Rodriguezes is true, a historical gap can be gleaned over in the year the Royal Decree was claimed to have been issued. It was the reign of King Ferdinand IV (1813-1833) in Spain when the Royal Decree was supposedly issued. Queen Isabella II, who was born on October 10, 1830, came to the throne as an infant in the year 1833. She was deposed in the “Glorious Revolution of 1868” and formally abdicated in 1870. Her son Alfonso XII became king in 1874. It was said that Hermogenes Rodriguez, awarded with vast tracks of land in several places in Luzon, was a cousin of the queen. In fact, it was not only in Naga City where the claimant-heirs are asserting their supposed right of ownership but also in Antipolo, Muntinlupa, Pasay, Parañaque, Marikina, Baguio, Angeles, San Fernando, Manila and Quezon, and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Zambales and Batangas as well. All these real estate properties are supposedly listed in the Royal Decree of Queen Isabella II. Using the absolute power of the Spanish Crown over the territory of the colonized natives of the Philippine Islands, the awarding of the properties to Hermogenes Rodriquez had been a mere click of the Queen’s fingers, so to speak, which consequently denied the original occupants of that period their inherent rights over these real properties. The heir-claimants, trying to assert their ownership over the 117 hectares of real properties in Naga City, are like their ancestor Hermogenes Rodriguez who had claimed ownership of vast tracks of land on the basis of a piece of paper called Royal Decree whimsically issued by the monarch. And to think that they are not the direct descendants of the actual person given the Royal Decree because he was unmarried and had no children, the claimants of the 117-hectare real estate properties who are the grandchildren of Antonio Rodriguez, the brother of the gobernadorcillo, only wanted to connect the dots for them to prove the legitimacy of their claims. The claim of the heirs of Rodriquez that stemmed from the settled case of heirship the Supreme Court supposedly affirmed on January 11, 2011 has far-reaching effect and implications to the present property owners if indeed it is true and can be implemented. Imagine the number of residents and property owners who will be evicted from their present abodes and locations. It must be noted that these present property owners acquired their land titles that had gone through the legal processes and for a long time their claims had survived different eras in the history of the city. With the land claim over titled properties in the 117 hectares of real estate properties, the heirs of Hermogenes Rodriguez are casting a cloud of doubt on the system and process of land titling in the government. But given the legitimacy of the land title each property owner possesses, it will take thousands of civil cases to win in courts before the heir-claimants could actually step inside these real estate properties. After all, it was who the rightful heir was to the supposed property that Hermogenes Rodriguez left behind that the court has settled but not the ownership of the present state of the real estates they are claiming.