Senator Chiz Escudero is pushing for the summary titling of all lands where public schools are situated after latest statistics from the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that there are still a number of untitled and unregistered school sites throughout the country. Escudero, who recently assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources after giving up the finance panel, has put forward Senate Bill No. 1730, or the act providing summary titling of real properties used as public school sites, to ensure that the government have legal ownership over these lands to avoid potential property disputes.
He noted that “public school sites have always been subjected to property disputes, frequent transfer of location, revocations of donations of lands where they are situated, and urban planning and development programs of the local government units (LGUs).” “These legal disputes hinder the adequate education of our youth. It has negative impacts on the overall development of the nation in tapping and harnessing the talents of the Filipino youth, if schools, considered as their second abode, is constantly threatened with legal disputes and uncertainties,” he said. DepEd data shows that as of 2015, it owns a total of 48, 740 school sites all over the country, but only 36, 258 of these have ownership or occupation documents under the DepEd’s name.
In most cases, Escudero said, public schools sites are owned by LGUs or are subject to long-term lease agreements with private individuals. In some cases, parcels of lands were donated but lacked the proper legal documentation and support on the transfer of ownership. “We have seen and heard cases that upon the death of the donors, heirs claim ownership of the land through revocation of the original donation. These result to endless court litigations,” Escudero said. “The passage of this bill will pave the way for simplifying the process of land titling registration of almost 90 percent of school sites in favor of the DepEd.”
One passed, the measure will cover all sites of public schools utilized for five years under the DepEd, such as public domain lands and those which are owned, whether registered or otherwise by persons or entities other than the education department. This will also enable school authorities to have direct control and supervision over these lands.
In the same hearing of the environment committee on Wednesday, Escudero asked the DepEd to consider geohazard zones and multihazard mapping when acquiring school sites in order to ensure the safety of students. He also told the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) that his committee will also look into its request to include state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the proposal pending submission of pertinent data information. According to Escudero, this measure is one of 38 pending bills being heard by the environment committee, which is now being consolidated by a technical working group. (PR)