"The tower cannot compensate for the loss of an ancestral house."
SOMEWHERE near the vicinity of Tomas Morato Avenue, a street named after Quezon City’s first mayor, a 21-storey condominium is being constructed. Sadly, it is being constructed right above where the 80-year old ancestral house of the former mayor and his family once proudly stood.
In fact, it was the subject of my column some months back as I questioned the Quezon City Council headed by Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, granted the developers of the condominium, named “The Tribute,” as its act allegedly violated Republic Act 10066 which provides protection for heritage structures 50 years and older, prohibiting thgeir demolition without going to court. And this covers the Morato ancestral house that was built in the 1950s.
The only basis for the special permit granted by the Council was a City Ordinance designating Morato Avenue as a commercial area.
And since when has a City Ordinance superseded a Republic Act?
Seemingly, there was more to it than usurpation of power.
In a case filed by the Morato clan, led by former PCSO chair Manuel “Manoling” Morato, before the Office of the Ombudsman, it is alleged it was the Belmontes – Vice Mayor Joy, Feliciano Isaac, Juan Kevin and Jaime Miguel, who conspired with several others, including one of Morato siblings, Jose “Pepito” Morato, to “illegally” acquire the property on which they are now constructing the Tribute Tower.
Also named respondents to the case, numbered IC-OC-19-0133, were City Councilor Lena Marie Juico and Liberato and Exequiel Robles of Sta. Lucia Land, Inc.
In their complaint sheet, the Morato siblings (with the exception of course of Jose), alleged that in April 2002, Jose “duped” them into agreeing to transfer four parcels of land registered under the name of their late mother, Consuelo, to Javea Properties Corporation, a corporation owned and organized by the siblings including Jose, to facilitate the expediency in availing a tax amnesty progran of the government that time.
To execute the transfer, Jose reportedly affixed the thumbmark of their mother on a Deed of Sale covering the properties, but with the full consent of the other siblings.
However, without their knowledge, the Moratos alleged Jose executed a series of Deeds of Sale involving the said properties, transfering the properties his wife Ma. Rosario, the Belmontes – Jaime Miguel, Kuan Kevin and Feliciano Isaac, and JLM Trading Corporation, a company owned by Jose.
The sale of the properties by Javea Properties to the Belmontes and to Jose, his wife and his corporation, was allegedly signed by one Benjamin Sim, who had had no authority to represent the Moratos.
The complainants further alleged Jose obtained Deed of Donation covering one of the properties in favor of his company, by affixing their mother’s thumbmark, who was then reportedly bedridden and too ill to consent to such act by herself.
According to the complainants, sale of the properties was illegal as it involved fraud. Even the transfer was illegitimate as it violated the law on succession. It affected the complainants who were also children and immediate successors-in-interest and heirs of Consuelo.
The respondents, the complainants alleged, entered into an agreement with Sta. Lucia Land, Inc. for the contruction of a 21-storey condominium over the properties in question and the work commended in April 2018.
And this is where Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte reportedly played a crucial role which prompted the Moratos in filing a case of Violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against the respondents.
According to the complainants, the respondents, mainly Jose Morato and the Belmonte brothers, solicited the active participation and intervention of their sister, Vice Mayor Joy, in the approval and issuance of the Cdertificate of Exception denominated as Reolution No. 7176 Series of 2017 as evidenced by the Minutes df the 3t5th Regular Session held on July 17, 2017, which was appoved and signed by Vice Mayor Joy herself.
Juico was implicated in the case as she reportedly presided over the Council when the resolution was approved.
According to the complainants, they conspired with one another in securing the Special Permit for the construction of the condominium over the contested properties. Even if it was in violation of the law.
So, for whom exactly are the respondents paying tribute to when they started the construction of the Tribute Tower? Obviously not in honor of the late Mroato matriarch as what the complainants claim when their own brother, in alleged cahoots with the Belmontes and the other respondents, violated Consuelo’s 1976 holographic will, wherein she stated that the family home and the lots on which it stands, shall be preserved as much as possible for her six children for their common and mutual enjoyment and that any partition of the property will never be entertained.
As for the complainants, the Tribute Tower can never compensate for the loss of their ancestral house.
And for Vice Mayor Joy who is now seekng the city’s mayoralty post, this could actually spell disaster for her as the complainants are seeking her supension and that of Juico, along with their perpetual disqualification to hold public office.