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that he was able to pay the real prop­erty tax in 2017, but failed in 2018 “due to lack of fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­ity.”

He stressed that the land was awarded to them by the Depart­ment of Agrar­ian Re­form sev­eral years back and were dili­gent in pay­ing its dues to en­sure that it will not be in­val­i­dated.

Ac­cord­ing to the law, a prop­erty can be con­sid­ered tax-delin­quent and may be up for pub­lic auc­tion if the owner failed to set­tle its real prop­erty tax for at least 36 months, and the in­ter­est that it ac­crued while un­paid.

The group claimed that pay­ment of real prop­erty tax is “be­ing manipulated by in­vestors who team up with lo­cal lead­ers in forc­ing land own­ers to sell their prop­er­ties” to ex­pand their busi­nesses.

“Farm­ers in the city ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing ne­glected or not be­ing aided by lo­cal lead­ers for the de­vel­op­ment of their lands. This we see as de­lib­er­ate and aimed at mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for them to main­tain the up­keep of their farms, forc­ing them to sell their lands to in­vestors who, more of­ten than not, are part­ners with the lo­cal lead­ers,” the farm­ers group claimed.

Supreme Court or­der

Mean­while, CAO head Luz Bautista, in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view, clar­i­fied that the of­fice’s refusal to ac­cept Sal­vador’s pay­ment for real prop­erty tax is an im­ple­men­ta­tion of a Supreme Court or­der served to them in 2018.

She dis­closed that Sal­vador’s con­cern is a land dis­pute prob­lem be­tween the farm­ers and a cer­tain Whi­taker fam­ily which originally owned the lot and which case must be ad­dressed to the court, and not to the CAO or the city gov­ern­ment as a whole.

“This land dis­pute prob­lem goes way, way back. The Whi­tak­ers have been deal­ing with this con­cern ever since and just re­cently, they brought an or­der from the Supreme Court to can­cel the farm­ers’ eman­ci­pa­tion patents (EPs),” she ex­plained.

EPs are the le­gal in­stru­ments that se­cure the own­er­ship and ten­ure of the farm­ers to the land.

Bautista said Sal­vador and other farm­ers were urged to air and dis­cuss their con­cerns with the Whi­tak­ers and the court as the CAO is only fol­low­ing the court or­der, oth­er­wise they will be cited in con­tempt.

She also clar­i­fied that CAO only can­celled the prop­er­ties’ tax dec­la­ra­tion in com­pli­ance with the said court or­der but were not re­spon­si­ble and do not have the power to can­cel any land ti­tles.

“It is the re­gional of­fice who can­cels the land ti­tles. If the re­gional of­fice de­cides to re­in­state the land ti­tles to farm­ers, we will be declar­ing them again but un­til we do not re­ceive a new or­der, we will fol­low what we have,” she said.

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