People, indeed have short memories! They tend to forget incidents in the past which may have grave implications on current issues they are facing! A case in point is the matter between a group of farmers from Norzagaray, Bulacan who woke up one day to find out that the 484 hectares of farmland the have occupied since the turn of the century is being claimed by its new owners, the Central Bank of the Philippines! They made one fatal mistake - they dealt with Manny Villar (now running for the highest position of the land - God forbid) and his family owned Capitol Development bank (now known  as  Optimum Development Bank)!

Ill-advised by politicians who had an axe to grind against Villar (who by then has wrested the speakership of the House of Congress), the farmers and their lawyers filed plunder cases against Villar - all of which were      subsequently dismissed in his favor as expected! (Ponder...ponder...How can the poor farmers win against a wily businessman-turned-politician who knows how to use  money and influence to nuy himself favors everywhere?)

In retrospect, lets recall that this case was blown into the open by then congressman and former Speaker of the House Joker Arroyo (amazingly one of his staunchest ally and defender today) in a speech he delivered on August 17, 1998.  Smarting from his loss of the speakership of the house in June,1998 to Villar, Joker asked some investigative journalist to dig deeper into information he received about an alleged land-grabbing incident in the hilly town of Norzagaray in Bulacan, right beside the foothills of the Sierra Madre.  Joker charged the new speaker with ten instances of graft and corruption among which was the case of the Norzagaray farmers and the 484 hectares of land they have been tilling since time immemorial which without their knowledge and consent, Villar used as a collateral for a 1.6 billion loan with the Central Bank.

Where is the spin and the rub here ?

To start with, the complaining farmers have occupied and tilled the 484 hectares of land in question for ages now for which they were granted titles in 1960 after proving continuous occupancy of what was then public domain.When a fire destroyed the building which houses Norzagaray's Registry of Deeds in 2007 (suspicious ain't it? ...Happening as it is at the time Villar was sounding out his intention to run for president!), the farmers had the surprise of their lives they filed for a reconstitution of their titles with the Bulacan RTC after that. They found out that the Central Bank was putting a claim of ownership to their land!

As it turned out, the 484 hectares occupied and tilled by the poor farmers was used as collateral for a 1.6 billion loan made by Capitol Development Bank headed then by Villar's wife Cynthia Villar in June, 2001. The loan was not paid on time and the Central Bank claimed the properties in April, 2008 instead.

How can this be? Well, your guess is as good as mine!

But wait, when the Central Bank went to file for the transfer of ownership of the now contested land, they presented the titles surrendered to them by Capitol Development Bank...and guess what!....the original certificate of titles were issued on July 25, 1944 - during the Japanese Occupation when clearly the civil government was non-existent then. Under the Commonwealth Act 141, "the issuance of sales patent was illegal and inoperative during the Japanese Occupation"! (Wily Manny, indeed!)

Today, the farmers are still contesting ownership of the land with the Bulacan RTC. Unfortunately, the farmers and their lawyers were used as political pawns by Villar enemies who saw a possibly bigger case than a simple land grabbing case which may only pin down his wife Cynthia who was president of Capitol Development Bank. They were urged to file a plunder case against Villar instead with a claim that Villar used his influence to get approval for a one and half billion loan with the Central Bank using the 484 Hectarea worth only a mere P290 million.

(A scandalous behest loan?...You bet! But I thought we put a stop to them after EDSA 1? Ask ERAP! All these transpired while he was president and Villar was the Speaker of his choice and mandate!)

Through power and influence, Villar managed to have the plunder cases against him dismissed. As for Senator Joker Arroyo, they are now staunch allies! ( Amazing what money can do even to one who pledged "uubusin ko ang corrupt!) And for the unsuspecting Norzagaray farmers, they still have to regain ownership of their land. Unfortunately for them, they have been left alone to fend for themselves after being used by the corrupt politicians who urged them to file the plunder cases.

As a side comment, allow me to add one more thing. I used to live in the Molino area near the SM  Molino Mall. Along the "Daang Hari" road overlooking SM is a huge vacant lot whose ownership is being contested in court between 3 claimnants.  I have personally witnessed several violent confrontations arising from these conflicting claims which have resulted with several lives lost. Guess who the third claimnant is? (Need I still spell it out?)

You need not wonder anymore why Villar have to spend billions to contend for the highest position in the land? With all these skeletons in Villar's closet, I wonder how Dolphy can still afford to make claims of "walang bahid, walang malisya" in his endorsement of Villar!  Never mind Willy, he is just as wily as Villar. Besides, his words will only have weight within the confines of his noon time show! (Oh, I almost forgot that Dolphy is a comedianne!...and so is Willy!)

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