(First of two parts)
It may be the bastion of the richest of the rich, but the uber-exclusive private village of Forbes Park in Makati City is not exempt from legal battles. One such battle involves something as seemingly mundane as an owner of a property seeking to evict a tenant, who has opted to ignore the eviction notice served her.
What makes the face off a little out of the ordinary is that the tenant being asked to leave the property is an ambassador of a foreign country, while the owner of the residence had to undergo wait for his claim on the property to be validated because the original owner died intestate, or without a will.
The property was eventually sold by the previous owner—one of the sons of the woman in whose name the original title mansion was—to a private corporation, which is the party seeking to take over the mansion for the use of the family of the company’s owner.
Incidentally, the former owner is a well-known family in both business and political circles – the Silverios who formerly owned the Philippine franchise for Toyota motor vehicles.
At the center of the controversy is Turkish Ambassador to the Philippines Hatice Pinar Isik, who has refused to vacate the property despite appeals for her to do so. The appeals came not only from its Filipino owner, but also from representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
She seeks to continue staying in the North Forbes mansion, citing the original lease contract she signed with the former owner.
The property is located at 82 Cambridge Circle, North Forbes Park and is currently being rented by the Turkish diplomatic office as the official residence of the ambassador.
Foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez says that generally, diplomats enjoy immunity “up to a certain level” referring to the immunity to be charged with violating criminal laws in the Philippines. Hernandez clarified that this immunity does not necessarily allow a diplomat to deny the property rights of a Filipino citizen or corporation.
In the case of the disputed property, although Isik cannot be charged with violating civil rights, her refusal to adhere to the property laws of the Philippines may affect her career and is proving to be an embarrassment to her and her home country.
The Turkish embassy sits at a multi-million mansion which was part of the estate of the late Beatriz S. Silverio who died in 1987. The administrators of the estate wrote a series of letters to Isik on August 19, 2010, September 13, 2010 and October 11, 2010 asking the Turkish representative to negotiate with Ricky Silverio Sr., since the property is part of the estate of his late wife. A new lease contract was signed between the Turkish embassy and Silverio Sr. stating that the Turkish embassy can occupy and rent the property from December 2010 to November 30, 2014.
However, on September 16, 2010, the son of Ricardo Silverio Sr, Ricky Jr, executed a Deed of Sale from the intestate estate of his mother, Beatriz with Monica Ocampo. A transfer certificate of title (TCT no. 006-2011000050) was issued by the Land Registration Authority (LRA) in favor of Ocampo on December 23, 2010.
A few weeks later, Ocampo sold the property to Zee2 Resources Inc. and a TCT was issued to Zee2 Resources on February 1, 2011. Subsequently, Zee2 Resources wrote to Isik asking her politely to vacate the property and turn over the mansion to the company.
Isik refused to honor the appeals of the legitimate owner despite a Court of Appeals order dated March 8, 2013 (CA GR SP No. 122024) which ratified the sale between Ocampo and Zee2 Resources. A Motion for review filed by Silverio Sr was denied by the Court of Appeals on July 4 this year.
Having settled the legality on the ownership of the property, Zee2 Resources sought help from the DFA.
On August 7, 2013, officials of the DFA Offices of Protocol, Legal and European Affairs met with a representative from the Turkish embassy to formally inform them of the court’s decision deciding on the legality of the ownership claims of Zee2 Resources. The Turkish representative agreed and expressed willingness to settle the issue in an amicable manner. The representative even said that the Turkish diplomatic office would start searching for another possible residence and even intimated its desire to purchase the property if it was for sale.
The new owner of the property then asked to meet with Isik on Sept. 5, 2013. Yet, on the last minute, the ambassador cancelled the supposed meeting without offering a reason why.
Meanwhile, Silverio Sr filed a petition for review on September 17, 2013 appealing for the Supreme Court to reverse the CA decision dated March 8, 2013. The petition was denied.
A Petition for Review dated September 17, 2013 was filed by Silverio, Sr. with the Supreme Court for reversal of CA decision dated March 8, 2013. According to the high tribunal, the legality of the ownership is outside the realm of the courts, and it is well established by the courts of jurisdiction.
Last October 10, the legitimate owner, along with the Director of the Office of Protocol, Privileges and Immunities and two other lawyers of the DFA, met with the Turkish ambassador.
Despite the earlier agreement to settle the issue amicably, however, DFA representatives and the owner were shocked to find that the Turkish envoy had changed her mind and wanted to stay in the property.
Isik said that she was just honoring the lease agreement and expressed resentment over being dragged into the property dispute.
In a sign of good faith, the legal owner offered to extend the lease to the property until December of this year since he intends to occupy the mansion with his family next year. The owner likewise gave enough lead time for the Turkish embassy officials to find another place to stay.
The Turkish ambassador refused to discuss the matter with DFA officials and even declared that she cannot be asked to leave the property.
The ambassador even denied the request of the owner for her to pay rent which has accrued since 2011.
Asked to comment specifically on this case, Hernandez says that they will look into the matter closely and encouraged others on the same situation to go to the DFA for assistance.
The latest letter from the lawyers of the new owner is dated Nov. 6, and is addressed to the DFA’s Margie Ibayan. The Manila Times was able to get a copy of the communication which states that the Turkish ambassador has been ignoring their letters. As such, the lawyers say “she (the ambassador) has left us with no choice.”
A legal case is in the offing which may ultimately prove to be a thorn on the side on the usually friendly relations between the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Turkey.
Meanwhile, the original owners of the property, the Silverios, are also embroiled in their own legal cases involving other properties in Forbes Park and other exclusive Makati villages.