His Excellency Manuel Roxas
President of the Philippines
On the Signing of an Agreement with the Archbishop of Manila
covering the purchase of certain Church Landed Estates
[Released on February 23, 1947]
I have just signed a formal agreement with the Archbishop of Manila providing for the acquisition by the Government of eight estates owned by the Catholic church on the island of Luzon—eight estates in which thousands of Filipinos work and live. This move is a major step in the direction of those social and agrarian reforms which are so vital for the success of our national efforts. The Government is acquiring these estates for one purpose only—in order to distribute them, without profit, to the farmers and home dwellers who inhabit the lands and buildings comprising these properties.
This agreement is the happy culmination of not only months but of years of negotiations between the Catholic church and the Philippine Government. It was the hope and the desire of our people over a period of many years to acquire these estates for distribution to the actual tenants and dwellers, a vast majority of whom are members of the underprivileged groups of our population. As far back as I can remember, I have advocated this act so that these people, these tenants and workers, might become farmers and home owners and have a positive stake, a property right in the land they actually work and occupy. It has always been my view that a true democracy is best supported and most dearly cherished by citizens who are part owners of the physical properties and assets of the nation. Today’s agreement marks a notable step in this direction.
Court actions were instituted before the war for the acquisition by the Government of title to some of these properties. Some of these court actions were based on the view that the Catholic church had failed to comply with the terms of the grants under which these lands in ancient times were entrusted to the Church and its orders. The war interrupted the progress of those suits. Most of the court records have now been destroyed and lost. Some of the witnesses who figured in those court cases are now dead.
Last November I appointed a Committee headed by Secretary of Justice Roman Ozaeta and including as a member former Chief Justice Avanceña, to review the legal status of the court actions and to recommend to me ways and means of acquiring these properties. That Committee advised that the cases would be difficult to reconstitute, and that victory for the Government was very uncertain and would, in any event, be long delayed. The Committee recommended that the cases be compromised by the most advantageous settlement possible. We thereupon began a series of conversations with the Archbishop and his representatives. Archbishop O’Doherty demonstrated throughout these conversations and subsequent negotiations a most commendable spirit of helpfulness and a high-minded desire to cooperate with us in the achievement of our objectives. In all our dealings the Archbishop showed that rare understanding of social justice which animates the Catholic church today. I cannot speak too kindly of Archbishop O’Doherty’s attitude in this matter. He has been reasonable, fair, and at all times anxious to promote the general welfare of the Filipino people and specifically of those individuals whom this transaction is designed to assist.
The Archbishop for his part was also anxious to rehabilitate a number of financial institutions in which the Archdiocese is interested, including both the Monte de Piedad, which is now closed, and the Philippine Trust Company. The Government was quite as anxious as the Archbishop that this be accomplished. It is therefore provided in this agreement that the money which the Philippine Government will pay to the Church for these lands will be used for the rehabilitation of these financial institutions in which the savings of so many of our people are involved. As a result of this accord, the Philippine Trust Company will be able to repay the amount loaned to it by the Government for its rehabilitation. The Monte de Piedad will be able to repay its pre-war depositors, including thousands of small businessmen, farmers and workers who have between five and six million pesos on deposit in this financial institution.
The agreement provides that the Philippine Government will pay to the Archbishop a total sum of P5,630,000 for all the eight estates involved in this transaction. This amount is considered by the Government a lump sum settlement for all the properties involved; the individual values established for each property are arbitrary and do not represent a critical appraisal of the individual worth of each parcel.
The estates which are being acquired by the Government are as follows:
1. Hacienda Dinalupihan, located in the municipality of Dinalupihan, Bataan, three parcels of land with an approximate area of 41,509,805 square meters.
2. Hacienda Nuestra Señora de Guia, located in the district of Tondo, City of Manila, one hundred twenty-two parcels of land with a total approximate area of 357,218.72 square meters.
3. Hacienda Ana Sarmiento, located in the districts of Singalong and Malate, City of Manila, with a total area of 206,085.10 square meters.
4. Hacienda Tambobong, located in the barrios of Concepcion and Flores, municipality of Malabon, Rizal, with an approximate area of 698,970 square meters.
5. Hacienda Baclaran, located in the municipality of Parañaque, Rizal, originally with an approximate area of 326,445 square meters, of which 129,859 square meters have been expropriated for roads, school, market and church sites and/or sold to private individuals, leaving a saleable area of 196,856 square meters.
6. Hacienda La Faja del Mar, located in the barrio of Baclaran, municipality of Parañaque, Rizal, with an approximate area of 26,070 square meters, of which 4,072 square meters are occupied by the Redemptorist Fathers and 1,788 square meters are covered by roads, leaving a net area available for sale of 20,210 square meters.
7. Parish properties located in Polo, Bulacan, three parcels of land with an approximate area of 221,881.95 square meters.
8. Hacienda Loñgos, located in the municipality of Malabon, Rizal, with an approximate area of 210,586.89 square meters.
The agreement provides that the total purchase price of P5,630,000 shall be used by the Archbishop for the following purposes:
Four million and one hundred thousand pesos to be turned over to the Monte de Piedad to pay its depositors and other creditors;
Five hundred thousand pesos to be used as capital of the new Monte de Piedad to be organized under the Corporation Law;
One million pesos to reimburse the Government for its investment in the rehabilitation of the Philippine Trust Company represented by 10,000 preferred shares of stock of the said company, which shares of stock shall be endorsed by the Government to the Archbishop upon receipt by the Government of said reimbursement; and
Thirty thousand pesos for the use of the parish of Polo, Bulacan.
The agreement does not provide for the actual transfer of title but is rather an over-all agreement of sale and a provision to transfer the various titles. Individual deeds of transfer will be executed within the immediate future. The Government, however, has arranged to proceed immediately to take possession of the lands and to make provision for the distribution of the properties to the tenants and dwellers, on a non-profit basis.
The properties are being acquired at roughly their pre war assessed taxation value. We are thus obtaining the properties at approximately half their real estate value in the current market. In the case of one estate, the Hacienda Dinalupihan, the prewar assessed value is admittedly high. That is because in prewar days this land was used for the production of sugar. No sugar is being raised there now. I am convinced, however, that we are acquiring these properties at a great bargain. We have taken into consideration the fact that title to several of these estates is in the process of court test. We have agreed to request the dismissal of all the court actions in these cases. The Archbishop, on the other hand, has agreed to refrain from executing judgment against any of these properties or their improvements to recover back rents due him.
The acquisition of these properties by the Government marks the final disposition by the Archbishop of practically all estates owned by the Archdiocese of Manila. The Government will continue to pursue the policy of acquiring similar estates owned by the Catholic church in the Philippines. I refer principally to properties owned by the religious orders. As the public knows, the Government has immediately in mind the acquisition of the Buenavista Estate. Some delay is being encountered in this transaction due to the intervention of an individual by the name of General Burt. As soon as the status of the title to this estate is clarified by court action, which is now in process, the Government will take steps to acquire the Buenavista Estate in one way or another, and will follow the same policy of distribution of the land involved. The entire broad program of acquisition of these large estates will be governed solely by our financial resources. In the case of the transactions involved in today’s agreement, the money is being supplied by the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation. The funds advanced by the RFC will, of course, be repaid from the payments by the present tenants and renters. It is strictly a business loan, but no profit is being sought by the Government.
We have assigned to each property unit, for the purpose of today’s transaction, an arbitrary value. In some cases it does not correspond to the true value. As I have said, we considered this an over-all settlement for all the properties involved. The entire transaction is a mutually beneficial arrangement in consideration of all pertinent factors.
All in all, this agreement represents a happy conclusion of our efforts of many years. I consider it a great achievement for the Government, as we gain under it our objectives and, at the same time, it will enable the Catholic church to accomplish a number of rehabilitation measures which are very much in the public interest. I am gratified beyond expression and consider this occasion today one of utmost significance and importance for our people.
Note.—The total area of the various estates covered by the transaction is 43.5 million square meters of which 41.5 are largely agricultural land in the northern part of the province of Bataan. The remaining 2 million square meters are urban lots on which residential houses have been built since the Spanish times. Before World War II the residents on these lots, as well as the tenants of the sugar estate in Bataan had wanted to own them, but the Government did not feel the necessity of quick action. It was only after World War II when there was a general discontent, against conditions in general, that the Government decided to buy these lands for resale to those using them.
The Buenavista Estate to which the President referred was finally bought on October 29, 1949, with funds borrowed by the Rural Progress Administration from the Philippine National Bank. Thus finally ended this case that acquired so much publicity before and after the war.
Source: Quezon Family Collections
Roxas, M. (1954). Papers, addresses and other writings of Manuel Roxas (Vol. 2). Manila : Bureau of Printing.