Private property is a state of mind

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

Part 3
To this day, I still cling precariously to a ruling by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), quoting jurisprudence, that I own “by operation of the law” the 5,000-square-meter property, Portion of Lot 7672 of Cadastral Survey of Antipolo, which I had settled on way back in 1968. (Completing the total of nearly one hectare of my land possession is another lot in the Antipolo Cadastre consisting of over 2,000 square meters.)

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Contrary to the optimism of Ka Jun in 1989 that the revolution would win by 1992, it suffered a monstrous debacle with the Boycott Error of 1986, setting back the Strategic Counter Offensive substage already attained by the People’s War to practically where the armed struggle had begun in Isabela in 1969. The 25,000 regulars of the New People’s Army, all in company formation, were past the 1:10 ratio of revolutionists to the enemy at which the revolution stood a good chance of succeeding. But the Cory-instigated People’s Power Revolt of 1986 had – without anybody outside of the inner circle of the CPP leadership noticing it – completely reversed the tide of the Kintanar-designed city insurrection that would have achieved a right writing of history. Five days and nights of continuous debates by the CPP Executive Committee of the Central Committee kept the Kintanar plan stagnant. At the end of that critical five-day period, Kumander Bilog, CPP Chairman and Head of the Party’s Military Commission, finally gave the go-signal for implementing the strategy – the taking over of the Batasan and hostaging of the members of parliament, hostaging of Forbes Park and Dasmarinas residents, capture of leading banks, seizure of the airport, and neutralizing moves directed at operatives of Clark Airbase. Alas, but by that time, the United States had already executed the exile of Marcos to Hawaii, paving the way for the proclamation of Cory as President.

In a most miserable fashion, the revolution lost.

Meantime, developments in the area of my residence would augur consequences no less damaging than that revolutionary loss. Beginning 1973, the Assumption School was built on a lot some distance across the highway, opposite my property. We all know that Assumption is an exclusive school for girls who hail from well-to-do families, each of them in their thousands having to go to and from school in their individual cars, many of them SUVs, or in private school service vehicles. Going to school would mean for these vehicles traversing a stretch of rock-strewn, unpaved dirt road counting some three kilometers from the town proper. Certainly you don’t expect daughters of politicians, businessmen, and other kinds of VIPs from Forbes Park, Dasmariñas Village, and even from as far as Ayala Alabang, to daily endure that irksome three-kilometer-travel from the town proper to Assumption School. So in 1973, the Department of Public Works and Highways was caught in a frenzy to have that three-kilometer-stretch paved.

After a period, the Valdez Farm, owned by Ambassador Carlos J. Valdez, which was behind my lot, was purchased by Meralco. It was developed into a training site for the company’s upper level personnel (later to be acquired by the Pacific Leadership Academy of Manny Pangilinan). Further to the back of the Assumption compound, real estate magnate Senator Manuel Villar began developing a number of subdivisions (Camella Homes, Cotton Woods, etc.).

In brief, the area which for a long time had been a neglected territory, sparsely settled in by hovelers, the so-called squatters, and at times serving as dumping ground for salvage victims (this was the area in which labor leader Lando Olalia was found dead one morning, the reason why the thoroughfare now traversing that spot has been named Olalia Road), had over time turned into a large premium piece of real estate.

The revolution having lost and me just not cut for the wheeling and dealing endemic in bourgeois legalese, I became veritably defenseless once real estate smooth operators began coveting my property.

In an instant, the lot became attractive to land grabbers. Through bastardization of legal processes – table surveys at the Land Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (LMB-DENR), manipulation of papers at the Land Registration Authority (LRA), bribery at the Assessor’s Office and at the Courts – any real estate agent without scruples but with a lot of financial backing, could come charging at my property armed with a TCT (Transfer Certificate of Title) by which to claim the land as his. It was just their misfortune that I had a background in armed struggle which I capitalized on largely in repelling their attacks. I shared this with my wife so that if such an attack was done in my absence, she could use the expertise just as handily.

In a number of times, she single-handedly threw back land grabbers, charging at them with just a bolo in her hands; she was at such a feat when policemen, escorting a lady land grabber, fired shots at her, subdued her and in handcuffs brought her to prison. In an act of upholding justice quite rare among prosecutors, the fiscal who conducted her inquest ruled that my wife’s act of wielding a bolo was a legal means recognized by the Constitution for one’s defense of his property.

My instruction to my wife was for her to drive out anybody from our compound who did not have a court order to authorize his entry. One time, somebody did just such an entry and my wife shooed him away.

“I am a general,” said the man.

“I don’t give a damn if you’re a general. You don’t have a court order. Get out of my property.”

With a lot of chagrin, the general backed out.

Knowing the former top PC officer (implicated in a high-end salvaging case), I thought it prudent to have a talk with him. Through a common friend who also prides in having shared with me a world with Ka Jun, I and the general had a talk in which I explained to him that I was taking responsibility for my wife’s action, such being my instruction to her. The general accepted my explanation but insisted in having apologies from my wife.

Until she died more than a year ago, Beth never apologized.

(To be continued)

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