Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Minding the details about School Ownership

Minding the details about School Ownership (Day 28)

by Rey Laguda

(This is the  28th day of 50-day journey of DepEd Undersecretary Rey Laguda as being serialized here with his permission, culled from his Facebook account - Blogger/owner)

Ownership of school property is hardly discussed as it is assumed that all public schools sit on land that is owned by Government. This is true except that documentation for such needs to be complete. When we joined in 2010, there was a schools titling unit that was tasked to ensure that a proper inventory of titles and other relevant documentation was in order. It was also supposedly tasked to work on issues regarding school ownership.

Based on available data from the unit, only 1,875 schools had a clean title, 1,307 schools had deeds of sale, 348 were covered by Presidential Proclamations, and 408 were covered by usufruct agreements in favor of DepEd. This totals to only 3,938 schools that had sufficient documentation. The other schools were either owned by the Local Government Unit, had incomplete documents, or under dispute with other claimants to the land. Yes, there are cases where there are other claimants. Many of school properties are donated in favor to the school or DepEd. However, these may not have been sufficiently covered by proper documentation or are currently being processed. There is a cost to such transactions which are not usually budgeted. Also, some are being reclaimed by the heirs of the donors.

A firmly established ownership of land supported with documentation is necessary for proper investments and development of such properties. Many don't realize that disputes actually incapacitate the Agency from developing schools as needed by the surrounding community. Oftentimes, land provided for schools are also the least ideal due to exposure to certain risks like flooding, erosion and landslides, etc. This only increases the cost of development because of the need to implement risk-mitigation measures and the cost of operating such a school campus as well.

DepEd formed a Task Force on School Sites in 2010. In April of 2011, this task force was strengthened by virtue of DepEd Order 33, s2011. The said order mandates DepEd to firmly establish ownership of school sites occupied by public elementary and secondary schools nationwide; to contribute to the further development and improvement of the public school system on a more stable basis; to protect the rights and interests of the Department of Education (DepEd) from legal and administrative issues affecting school sites, and to ensure that the funds allocated for the titling and acquisition of DepEd properties will be utilized pursuant to the provisions of the General Appropriations Act (GAA). Thus the National Task Force on School Sites Titling (NTFSST) was created.

The NTFSST implements efforts such as updating the nationwide inventory of school sites, managing records of ownership/occupancy and relevant documents, facilitating the titling of untitled sites, coordination with the Office of the Solicitor General among others make it possible for more schools to be ensured. Adding to the list of accomplishments is the 2014 Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through its Land Management Sector (LMS) in the regional offices and through the assistance and technical supervision of its Land Management Bureau (LMB). The MoA still continues to establish firm legal basis for 15,000 more school sites occupied by all schools nationwide—all of which are untitled although have been occupied by these schools for decades.

Through these quiet efforts, the data now shows that there are 2,369 schools with clean transfer certificates of title; 5,799 with proper deeds of donation; 731 schools with deeds of sale; 8,821 with tax declarations; 267 covered by presidential proclamations; 1,752 under special patents; and 924 with usufruct agreements in favor of DepEd. This totals to 20,663 schools or a huge jump of 424% from when we started.

Someone has to mind the details if we are to look after the interests of our schools. The nitty gritty work continues until all schools are properly covered and ownership issues are resolved.



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