Legacy landgrab? Town loses island
By Ferliza Contratista, Freeman News Service Updated February 27, 2009 12:00 AM

CEBU , Philippines – A town in Leyte has become the latest entity to go after Celso de los Angeles and his failed Legacy Group of 12 rural banks and three pre-need companies, and this time the complaint is not about questionable financial dealings but alleged land-grabbing.

Officials and residents of the 3rd class municipality of Palompon denounced on Wednesday the alleged illegal transfer of ownership of Kalanggaman Island from that of the town to the Rural Bank of Carmen, one of the banks owned by De los Angeles.

Palompon municipal legal consultant Donna Villa Gapasan said town residents, accompanied by members of the media, braved guards and armed men detailed by De los Angeles at the so-called “Boracay of Leyte” and held a protest rally on the 10-hectare strip of land located 12 kilometers off the municipal shoreline.

According to Gapasan, De los Angeles started claiming the island in 2003 and by 2004 reportedly had a Deed of Sale to show ownership of the island, which the people of Palompon said had been part of the town since “time immemorial.”

During the rally, the protesting residents managed to erect a sign proclaiming the town’s ownership of the disputed island. The guards and armed men did not intervene.

“CA 141 and PD 705 assert that Kalanggaman Island is not private property; it is unclassified, inalienable and a public forest,” the sign said.

Gapasan said that in 2006, De los Angeles transferred “ownership” of Kalanggaman Island to the Rural Bank of Carmen and then late last year, just two months before the bank and others in the Legacy Group declared bank holidays, the “ownership” again moved from the bank to a private realty firm based in Manila.

Not surprisingly, the private firm, Edifice Realty and Development Corp., is also an affiliate of the Legacy Group of De los Angeles. Edifice appears in the latest tax declaration for Kalanggaman Island as the owner.

Gapasan said that according to records, all of Palompon’s legal, legislative and administrative initiatives to maintain territorial jurisdiction over Kalangggaman fell through when De los Angeles succeeded in acquiring ownership by producing a Deed of Absolute Sale from heirs of a certain Andres Toring in 2003.

The document declared that a total of 2,696 square meters of coconut land situated in Kalanggaman was sold by the Toring heirs to De los Angeles and a certain Joel Retuya for P200,000.

A case background provided by Palompon municipal information officer Rezza Boy Omega showed that the town, assuming all the while to be the rightful owner of the island, found out only 10 years prior to the sale that a private person (Toring) from Bogo, Cebu has been claiming ownership of Kalanggaman on the strength of Tax Declaration 12819.

The town further learned that prior to Toring, the name of a certain Pablo Sitoy appeared in a 1950 tax declaration as owner. By 1974, the ownership transferred to a certain Agripino Ensoy, although no record could now be found to validate that transfer.

In 1979, a Deed of Absolute Sale was executed, this time conveying the land from Ensoy to Toring.

Since 1993, the Municipality passed several legislative measures asserting its firm claim over the island. These resolutions include repeated requests to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources not to declare Kalanggaman as alienable and disposable, being part of public domain under territorial jurisdiction; and requesting the Environmental Management and Protected Areas Services to evaluate and declare Kalanggaman as a Marine Protected Area; and yet another resolution requesting the Department of Tourism to evaluate Kalanggaman Island for tourism purposes.

After the transfer to De los Angeles, the municipality again asserted its claim of jurisdiction and ownership by approving resolutions expressing opposition to survey plans and application for land titling filed by De los Angeles and authorizing then Palompon Mayor Marcelo OÒate to initiate measures to further the claim and other efforts.

De los Angeles, agitated by the moves of the town, sued officials before the Office of the Ombudsman but the complaints were all dismissed.

He also sought declaratory relief and injunction from the Regional Trial Court in Palompon but these petitions were also denied.

In 2006, De los Angeles and his lawyer, Pinky Noel, appeared before the Palompon municipal council and apologized for his actions. He then proposed to develop the island into a resort and got himself a memorandum of agreement to proceed with the development.

Legacy lawyer Inocencio de la Cerna, who represents the company in the close to P14.4-billion claims made by depositors, refused to speak on the issue, saying he is not the lawyer assigned to handle the case.


Thursday, March 05, 2009, Manila Times

Legacy boss illegally owned Leyte island

By Marit Stinus-Remonde, Columnist

KALANGGAMAN, Leyte: Suddenly last week, an innocuous island in Leyte became famous in the Visayas, all because of the perceived notoriety of the Legacy group’s Celso de los Angeles and the action of a municipal mayor.

Some 12 kilometers off the shoreline of Palompon, Leyte, this island by appearance, location and resources does not distinguish itself from the thousands of other islands dotting the Philippine archipelago.

Its name is derived from langgam, Cebuano for “bird.” Kalanggaman Island (meaning “where the birds are”) has no fresh water sources. Coconut trees and talisay trees are among the few trees that grow on the island. Fishermen from the mainland, however, have been enjoying the rich fishing grounds off the island.

The place is hatching ground of marine turtles. Dolphins are also seen in the area. Mainland residents have been using the island as destination for their Sunday picnics. As every other sitio in the predominantly Roman Catholic Visayas, Kalanggaman Island has its own annual fiesta. Early inhabitants of the island built a small chapel for Santo Niño (the child Jesus).

This relatively obscure island suddenly hogged the headlines in Western Visayas media when the local government of Palompon, headed by Mayor Eulogio Tupa, announced that Palompon had repossessed the island from the illegal “ownership” of de los Angeles.

Bought, sold many times

Kalanggaman Island was acquired by de los Angeles in September 2003 from the heirs of Andres Toring of Bogo, Cebu, for P200,000. The island has been bought and sold several times since the 1950s, this despite the fact that it is an unclassified land and as such is unalienable and undisposable and cannot be owned privately (according to Commonwealth Act 141, also known as the Public Land Act).

Furthermore, under Presidential Decree 705 (the Forestry Code of the Philippines), states that unclassified land is forestland, and forestland too cannot be owned privately, Palompon municipal councilor and lawyer Jesus Villardo 3rd explained. Villardo, a first-time councilor and was one of Cebu’s most prominent environmental lawyers at the time that he left the country for a three-year stint with VSO in Vanuatu.

It is a good question how the transfer could happen, he said. A municipal resolution clearly stated the town’s opposition to the sale, transfer and land titling of Kalanggaman Island, yet, Enriquita Lubiano, the municipal assessor, issued the tax declaration in de los Angeles’ favor. She will be appearing before the Sangguniang Bayan on March 2.

Local effort

The municipality did not take the acquisition of Kalanggaman Island by de los Angeles sitting down.

Several resolutions reasserting Palompon’s rights over the contested island were passed. De los Angeles in turn filed criminal and administrative complaints against the local government unit. These have all been recommended for dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman for the Visayas.

In 2006, de los Angeles tried a different approach. He personally appeared before the Palompon Sangguniang Bayan and presented his plan for “Kalanggaman Bluewater Island Resort.”

At the same time, however, and unknown to the local government, de los Angeles had the ownership of the island transferred to the Rural Bank of Carmen (Cebu). This bank is one of the rural banks owned by de los Angeles’ Legacy group. It was placed under receivership of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. in December 2008.

Two months earlier, in October 2008, Ma. Karen Pitoy, the president of the Rural Bank of Carmen, signed an Absolute Deed of Sale on this unclassified, unalienable and undisposable island in favor of Edifice Realty and Development Corp., a sister company. Kalanggaman Island had changed owner again.

When de los Angeles bought Kalanggaman Island from the heirs of Andres Toring, he paid the owners of the small houses erected on the island, and they all left. Security guards were placed on the island. They collected landing and diving fees from fishermen and other visitors.

With the repossession of the island, Mayor Tupa and his local government can finally include Kalanggaman Island in the comprehensive environmental protection programs that have become the trademark of his administration. The municipality closed a destructive mining operation in the town, established an ecological solid waste management system and strengthened coastal resource management, among environmental initiatives since July 2007.

De los Angeles’ security guards were evicted during the celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the “people-power” revolt EDSA 1.

Fish wardens and policemen have been placed on the island to ensure that national laws and the policies of the municipal government are followed. Palompon may still be best known for its bird sanctuary on Tabuc Island, but Kalanggaman Island has already become a legacy.



Kalanggaman is a small island paradise with a land area of about two hectares situated between north of Cebu and Leyte. Belonging to the town of Palompon, Leyte, it is about an hour ride by boat either from Palompon or Villaba,Leyte. What makes this island unique is that it has two sand bars , one which protrudes towards the east and the other at the southern end. The eastern sand bar stretches for more than 200 meters into the sea, while the other one is only half as long which is submerged under water during high tides..

Malapascua Island 

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