SC upholds CA ruling on NOVAI’s land ownership row

By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA, Oct. 8 (PNA) — The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) lauds the Supreme Court (SC) in upholding a Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that canceled ownership of the Navy Officers’ Village Association, Inc. (NOVAI) on a 47-hectare parcel of land situated at the Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

The NOVAI is a group of retired military officers which claimed ownership of the disputed property situated inside the former Fort Andres Bonifacio Military Reservation (FBMR).

“This is far bigger than the pork barrel scam, with powerful and influential personalities also involved,” BCDA president and chief executive officer Arnel Paciano Casanova said.

However, Casanova declined to name the personalities involved citing the closure of the case.

“The SC decision will ultimately benefit soldiers of the Armed Forces and the Filipino people,” he added.

The BCDA is the agency specifically created under Republic Act No. 7227 to own and administer military reservations, including those located inside the FBMR.

The 475,009-square-meter land recovered by government is now estimated to be worth more than Php47 billion based on the current selling price of about Php100,000 per square-meter.

“The high tribunal has spoken and justice is served, a clear message that no one is above the law, including usurpers and land grabbers from the ranks of retired military generals,” Casanova said.

The BCDA Chief added that he personally pursued the case “with the help of honorable and professional officers of the Armed Forces and the Office of the Solicitor General.”

Casanova was general counsel for the government when the latter filed a complaint in the court against military generals involved in illegal settlements inside military reservation areas.

In an earlier petition, the BCDA said that NOVAI was prohibited to acquire the said property being an inalienable land of public domain at that time, citing that “any sale of land in violation of the Constitution or of the provisions of R.A. 274 and R.A. 730, and the Public Land Act are null and void; and that any title which may have been issued by mistake or error on the part of a public official can be cancelled at any time by the State.”

In the Notice of Judgment promulgated by acting Chief Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo, Jose C. Mendoza and Marvic F. Leonen, the SC Second Division denied NOVAl’s petition for review on certiorari as it found no reversible error committed by the CA in issuing its Dec. 28, 2006 decision and March 28, 2007 resolution.

In Aug. 20, 2004, the CA reversed and set aside the decision of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 67, which dismissed the complaint filed by the government against NOVAI.

The CA ruled that the property claimed by NOVAI “is inalienable land of the public domain and cannot be disposed of or be the subject of a sale”.

It stressed that the property remained reserved for the military veterans’ rehabilitation purposes under Proclamation No. 478, the latest executive issuance affecting the property.

“As early as 2004 and as general counsel then, I made a commitment to the Feliciano Commission that I will do my best to pursue the cases against Southside Homeowners Association (SHAI) and NOVAI in spite of some generals who kept on dissuading us from doing so,” Casanova said.

He was referring to the commission’s report that recommended legal action for the recovery of the JUSMAG and NOVAI properties. (PNA)