THE property occupied by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City belongs to the National Government, a lawyer said in court yesterday.

Lawyer Benjamin Militar, counsel for Cebu City Hall and former mayor Tomas Osmeña, said a certificate of title issued in 1968 by the National Archives of the Philippines shows the property belongs to the government.

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The DA 7, Militar said, “took custody” of the certificate.

However, Provincial Legal Officer Marino Martinquilla said the certificate presented by former DA 7 legal officer Catherine Pioquinto in yesterday’s hearing has “no probative value.”

“What was presented is just a photocopy allegedly from the archives. What is binding is the title issued and found in the records of the Register of Deeds, in the name of Cebu Province,” Martinquilla told Sun.Star Cebu by text message.

Judge Douglas Marigomen of the Regional Trial Court Branch 5 tackled yesterday the petition for a writ of preliminary injunction.

Interviewed by reporters, the judge said he will try to resolve the preliminary injunction before the temporary restraining order lapses on Aug. 18.

He earlier granted the temporary restraining order that barred Capitol officials from entering and “further disturbing” occupants inside the contested property, a six-hectare compound that reportedly has about 80 families.

Atty. Pioquinto testified yesterday on the certificate of transfer allegedly issued by the National Archives.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing, she also said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is studying the case.

Militar told reporters after the hearing the certificate of title from the National Archives has not been cancelled or transferred.

“The reconstituted title of the Province is spurious and bogus,” he said.

Osmeña had filed a petition for judicial review before the Regional Trial Court against Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap and DA 7 officials, for turning over the lot in Barangay Guadalupe to the Provincial Government.

The City Government and the DA Cebu Breeding Residents Association Inc. were also named petitioners in the complaint.

They asked the court to declare the DA as the lawful owner of the contested property.

But Martinquilla said the Province has held a valid title for the property since the late 1950s, and it remains the only title in existence, as far as that property is concerned. 

“For us, it’s really a non-issue. As far as we are concerned, that’s nothing,” Martinquilla said, referring to yesterday’s development in the case.

“They claimed that they have another title. What they are showing to the court is only a Xerox copy, an allegedly certified copy issued by the archives and not even the Registry of Deeds,” Martinquilla said. (GMD/RSA)