2 landmark bills approved

[ manilastandardtoday.com ] March 19, 2010

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has signed into law two landmark measures—one allowing 39 million Filipinos to acquire title to the land they have been occupying for at least 10 years, and another empowering the Bureau of Internal Revenue to exchange information with its foreign counterparts to help fight international tax evasion.

Mrs. Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 10023, or the Free Patent Act that eases the requirements and procedures in titling residential land.

Landowners could only acquire the title to their land through a court proceeding before the new law was signed. Now they may apply with the Environment Department to acquire a title to it through a free patent.

The new law cut down the period of eligibility for titling to 10 years from 30, but only alienable land not needed for public service or public use may be given a free patent.

The land should not exceed 200 square meters if it is in a highly urbanized city, 500 meters in other cities, 750 meters in first- and second-class municipalities, and 1,000 meters in third-class municipalities.

Local government units may also apply for a free patent for public land being used for public schools, municipal halls, public plazas or parks, and other government institutions for public use.

Meanwhile, Republic Act 10021 allows Internal Revenue to exchange tax information to “pursue a tax environment that contributes in sustaining a favorable international investment climate and instills confidence in the adequacy and capacity of the country’s tax administration.

“The government shall comply with internationally-agreed tax standards required for the exchange of tax information with its tax treaty partners to help combat international tax evasion that affect international trade and investment.”

RA 10021 amended some provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, and authorizes Internal Revenue to inquire into bank deposits and other information held by financial institutions to supply information to a requesting foreign tax authority.

It also allows requesting foreign tax authorities to study the income tax returns of taxpayers on the President’s order and on the recommendation of the Internal Revenue commissioner. Joyce Pangco Pañares

Homeowners, Homeowners Associations' Rights Protected in Magna Carta - Zubiri

Press Release [ Senate of the Philippines ]
January 13, 2010

"The rights of homeowners and homeowners associations are well-protected and will cut conflicts now experienced in many communities with the enactment of the Magna Carta for Homeowners and Homeowners Associations or Republic Act 9904," according to its main author Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri.

"In very clear and specific language the law laid down the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and the guidelines on the operations of homeowners associations," said Zubiri, past chairman of the Committee on Housing, Urban Planning and Resettlement now chaired by Senator Rodolfo Biazon.

"From now on, homeowners and homeowners association members will be supported by the law's clear provisions and guidelines ensuring their right to avail of basic community services and facilities due them. There will be less frustrations on both sectors."

"The Magna Carta will be the vehicle to bring peace and comfortable living conditions in many communities," he said.

"This law will benefit all homeowners from the different socio-economic classes. We made sure that the benefits will be encompassing. Homeowners are defined as 'not only those living in titled homes and lots in subdivisions but to lessees, awardees, beneficiaries, or occupants in government socialized or economic housing or relocation projects, and even underprivileged and homeless citizens while they are in the process of being accredited as beneficiaries or awardees of ownership rights under the CMP, LTA, and other similar programs.' "

Zubiri clarified that "contrary to earlier perceptions, this law was not made for rich residents of gated subdivisions only. Lessees in government socialized housing projects or urban estates and those in communities of underprivileged and homeless citizens are also considered as homeowners for the purpose of qualifying as a member of a homeowners' association without need of any written consent or authorization."

"We tried our best not to leave gray areas to prevent conflicts and confusion." Zubiri said the rights and benefits of homeowners, both members and non-members of homeowners associations, are enumerated in the law. The rights of a member are as follows: "(1) to avail of and enjoy all basic community services and the use of common areas and facilities; (2) to inspect association books and records during office hours and to be provided upon request with annual reports, including financial statements; (3) to participate, vote and be eligible for any elective or appointive office of the association subject to the qualifications as provided for in the bylaws; (4) to demand and promptly receive deposits required by the association as soon as the condition for the deposit has been complied with or the period has expired; (5) to participate in association meetings, elections and referenda, as long as his/her bonafide membership subsists."

On the other hand, members have the following duties: "(1) to pay membership fees, dues and special assessments; (2) to attend meetings of the association; and (3) to support and participate in projects and activities of the association." The bylaws shall contain the definition and procedure of determining who are delinquent and administrative sanctions even as it guarantees their right to due process.

The rights and powers of the association are provided for, such as:

"- regulate the use, maintenance, repair, replacement and modification and modification of common areas and cause additional improvements to be made part of the common areas: Provided, That the aforementioned do not contradict the provisions of the approved subdivision plan;

- regulate access to, or passage through the subdivision/village roads for purposes of preserving privacy, tranquility, internal security, safety and traffic order;

- ensure the availability of quality water services at a reasonable price and, at its option, administer and manage the waterworks system of the subdivision;

- impose or collect reasonable fees for the use of open spaces, facilities and services of the association to defray necessary operational expenses, subject to the limitations and conditions imposed under the law, the regulations of the board and the association's bylaws;

- subject to consultation and with the approval of a simple majority of the association members, allow the establishment of certain institutions such as, but not limited to, schools, hospitals, markets, grocery stores and other similar establishments that will necessarily affect the character of the subdivision/village in terms of traffic generation, and/or opening the area to outsiders � Provided, That such prior approval shall not be necessary for the establishment of sari-sari stores; and,

- suspend privileges of and services to and/or impose sanctions upon its members for violations and/or noncompliance with the association's bylaws, rules and regulations," among others.

Zubiri also stressed that the Magna Carta strengthens the accountability of association directors, trustees and Board. "Through a signed petition of a simple majority of the association members in good standing, subject to verification and validation of the HLURB, a director/trustee may be removed for causes provided in the bylaws of the association: Provided, That if a majority of the members of the board is removed, it shall be considered a dissolution of the entire board, in which case, Section 14 hereof shall govern. a signed petition of two-thirds (2/3) of the association members subject to verification and validation of the HLURB, the board of the association may be dissolved for causes provided in the bylaws of the association."

"Until the new board members shall have been elected and qualified, the HLURB shall designate an interim board: Provided, That, such board shall be composed of association members in good standing: Provided, further, That such interim board members shall not be eligible to run in the election called for the purpose of replacing the members of the dissolved board."

The Magna Carta also provided for the duties and responsibilities of the HLURB. Among which are as follows: "Regularly conduct free orientation for officers of homeowners' associations or deputize another competent agency to conduct the orientation; Formulate and publish a Code of Ethics and Ethical Standards for board members detailing prohibited conflicts of interest; Hear and decide intra and/or inter-association controversies and/or conflicts, without prejudice to filing civil and criminal cases by the parties concerned before the regular courts: Provided, That all decisions of the HLURB are appealable directly to the Court of Appeals."

The HLURB is also authorized to ask the assistance of the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government if necessary to rightfully enforce its functions.

Zubiri stressed the Magna Carta would "hopefully put an end to the confusion on where to register homeowners' associations. All homeowners' association shall register with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), instead of listing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This will immediately lessen future conflicts and unify fractured homeowners belonging to different associations in one community."

He explained that while existing associations previously registered with the Home Insurance Guarantee Corporation (HIGC) or SEC would still be recognized, the associations could opt to register anew to the HLURB without penalty after the law becomes effective.

As to the activities of local governments such as zone reclassification, the law mandates the LGU to first get the consent of the homeowners in the area targeted for reclassification before these are undertaken.

The Magna Carta also provided for prohibited acts, among them: To deprive any homeowner of his/her right to avail of or enjoy basic community services and facilities where he/she has paid the dues, charges and other fees for such services; To prevent any member in good standing from participating in association meetings, elections and referenda. Violations of the Magna Carta shall be punished with a fine of not less than P5,000 but not more than P50,000 and permanent disqualification from being elected or appointed as members of the board, officer or employee of the association.

Zubiri turned over a signed copy of the Magna Carta for Homeowners and Homeowners Associations in simple ceremony at the Senate of the Philippines. Homeowners and homeowners associations were in attendance, among them Danilo Mendoza representing Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners Association; Bonifacio Dazo, Federation of Las Piñas Village Associations; Atty. Mario Jalandoni, FORA; and Atty. Ed Magpantay, Parañaque Federation of Homeowners Associations.

The turn-over was witnessed by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board represented by Romulo Fabul, HLURB Commissioner. The Village Voice, a community paper in Makati City the Village Voice also sent their representative Sigmund Tesorero,Ms. Nelia Estrevencion of SSANGKAP and Marie Allanosa also of the Federation of Las Pinas Village Association, Mr. Anto Ocampo, and Ms. Andrea Rebustillo, Manolo Dayrit.
Press Release [ Senate of the Philippines ]
January 5, 2010


Senator Bong Revilla today expressed optimism that the issue of inheritance of children born to underage parents will be addressed by the new law on their legitimacy.

According to the senator, he is proud that the legislative measure which he authored for the legitimacy of children born to underage parents finally became a law after it was signed by President Gloria Arroyo last December 20 as Republic Act 9858.

He said that because of the said law, children of minor parents would finally have the benefits of being a legitimate child, particularly on the issue of inheritance. "Under the Family Code, illegitimate children can only inherit half of what a legitimate child can get. Because of our new law, children of minor parents would be considered legitimate once the parents marry. Hence, they will have a fair share in the inheritance," Revilla pointed out.

He further explained that under Article 177 of the present Family Code, only children conceived and born outside of wedlock of parents who, at the time of the conception of the former, were not disqualified by any impediment to marry each other, may be legitimated."Underage parents cannot be married, not until they reach legal age of eighteen years old. This is considered as an impediment under the present Family Code. This contradicts the Child and Youth Welfare Code that guarantees that the State shall promote the welfare and wellbeing of every child, and safeguard their rights, dignity and personality," Revilla said.

The lawmaker stressed that the new law will also relieve the minor parents from the costly and lengthy adoption process. "To deny them such right by reason of the minority of their parents upon their birth, thereby preventing their legitimation, appears to be unreasonable in light of the stigma and difficulties that illegitimate children have to hurdle during their lives," he added.


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