Private property ownership is a state of mind

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

Part 4
WHEN forcibly entering my premises did not work for the landgrabbers, they resorted to court action. In 2005, they got a court ruling awarding them possession of my property. A friend of the court judge approached me, offering a settlement with the judge for a price, which got me riled. Why would I compromise ownership of something that is truly mine!

November 25, 2005 was a day of infamy. After a series of notices for implementation of a writ of demolition order (I remember the series to have gone as far as four notices), the court deputy sheriff, backed by a large contingent of policemen led by the police chief himself and an army of civilians armed with demolition implements, broke through the galvanized iron sheets fencing our compound and as in an enemy’s onslaught proceeded to finally demolish our house.

The huge throng of onlookers were one in grimacing at the tearing of the iron roof, the shattering of glass panels, the crushing of the walls, each and every blow of the demolition activity.

“Kawawa naman ang bahay ni Direk. Matagal na panahon niyang pinagpaguran.”


The woman, with a forlorn expression on her face, was sincerely expressing sympathy.

Quite in contrast, I wore a light face, even beaming casually as I watched the destruction of our house; but Beth was having a seizure of hypertension, attended to by neighbors in our modest eatery, which stopped operation for that day. Credit it perhaps to my showbiz attitude which subordinates everything to the dictum: the show must go on.

I was play-acting of course. In fact, as the demolition began, I was sending text messages to top comrades in the revolutionary ranks, asking: “Which part of my house is mine alone and therefore I alone must defend and which part is the Party’s and therefore the Party must defend with me?”

Nobody but nobody cared to reply.

What I got at that moment was a cellphone call from my sister Ellen in Kuwait, tearfully saying sorry that there was nothing she could do to help. I had informed her earlier about the impending demolition and pleaded for some financial assistance which I had hoped against hope would deter the sheriff’s action.

Still and all, I kept my outwardly jolly mien, even conversing with the police chief and the lady landgrabber.

What nobody ever knew, even including my own folks, was that the demolition was perfectly in accordance with my strategy. I had figured – given the realities of the country’s judicial system – that raising the issue to the Court of Appeals would entail at least a million pesos in facilitating expenditures leading to a reversal of the lower court order, or in the event of a CA order again favorable to the landgrabber, raising the issue finally to the Supreme Court would entail a million or two more. Even granting that the SC would finally rule in my favor, I shall have by then spent at least P3 million. That’s quite a lot of money which I no longer had (I had squandered all my earnings in two failed attempts at the mayorship of Antipolo in 1995 and in 1998) nor could hope to still have (Philippine cinema died with Henry Sy’s ban on adult movies in SM theaters, thereby bringing about mass unemployment among movie talents and workers). By very basic arithmetic, I computed that with a day-long limit for demolition and given the very sturdy build of my house, the demolition crew would manage to destroy only a minimal portion of it that could amount to some half a million pesos. Compared to the potential expenses I would certainly incur in the two highest levels of appeal, getting the house demolished was the far better option.

It was basic dialectics working in me. By having the demolition order implemented, I got that order over with, and when, after a period, I once again exercised possession over the property which, in the first place was justifiably mine, there was no more order to prevent me from doing it.

For the many years comprising the subsequent period of my repossession of the property involved in the demolition case, nobody in the neighborhood has ever dared question my ownership of the same. Everybody recognizes the property as mine and none has dared violate the limits of my privacy. If not only because I would not wish to go without first assuring that my kids are secure in the property, I would not ever entertain again any idea of having that property titled in my name. These words by Macliing Dulag won’t ever get out of my mind: “How can you own something that can outlast you?”

I did not have that property when I was born. I will not have it when I die.

But as a human being, everybody must be entitled to a piece of the earth in which to live, raise kids – have a family. Only in the context of such entitlement must privacy of ownership of a land be valid. In other respects, for example, commerce and industry, private ownership of land becomes evil. The ideal should be social exploitation of land and its resources.

One common thing I notice about the people who have come forward brandishing varying titles to my property is their design to sell my property. Land title in this respect is not an instrument for protecting possession but, on the contrary, for violating possession, and if in civilized societies communal living has evolved into an affair requiring privacy of the individual and the family, titling a property must only be for the purpose of respecting the civil liberties of the occupants of such property.

Of course, the buyer who had been gypped by the landgrabber to pay for the property involved in the case would in due time file suit in court to take the property away from me. But I believe I have learned much in this particular fight and it is this learning which I now endeavor to elucidate on: ownership of private property is not a matter of one having a title to it but of one being justified in enjoying the fruits of possession of it. I don’t have a title to my land but for nearly half a century now, I have enjoyed absolute and adverse possession of it, including enjoyment of all the fruits, as a lawyer would phrase it, “therein appertaining”: the cool of the orchard of mango, santol, avocado, and durian; the shade of bamboo trees; the murmur of the brook; the eternally flowing mineral water from a spring above whose bowels sits my house. When God created this piece of paradise, did He ever issue a title to it for legitimizing somebody’s ownership of it other than that of the actual possessor – the developer next to God?

(To be concluded tomorrow)

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