Fr. Crisostomo Estate residents in Cabanatuan seek DAR’s clarification on increased homelot rental rates

CABANATUAN CITY – Residents occupying homelots at the Fr. Gregorio Crisostomo Estate in Cabanatuan City have expressed apprehension over the plan of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to increase the rental rates for the residential and commercial lots they occupy inside the estate.

The DAR Nueva Ecija Provincial Office recently issued them Summons and Notice of Preliminary Conference on separate dates this month to discuss the issue. The Summons include the proposed new monthly rental rates at P10 from the original seven centavos per square meter (sqm) for residential, and P25 from P1.00/sqm for commercial lots, retroactive to 2006.

It also requires the residents to submit certain documents and answer the summons within 10 days, failure to comply with which will be construed as a waiver and the case will be submitted to the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB), an in-house semi-judicial body, for decision.

The residents concerned consider the proposed new rental rates as excessively high especially in the midst of the obtaining Covid-19 pandemic. Based on the new rates, residents occupying 300-sqm homelots will need to pay P30,600 in rentals annually. while those who developed their lots of the same area into commercial assets have to pay P90,000 rental per year. Most of the lots were originally farmlands.

The Crisostomo Estate in Nueva Ecija consists of farmlands owned by the late Fr. Gregorio Crisostomo who entrusted his landholdings to the government for it to administer and use supposedly for the benefit of the poor. It includes 110 hectares of agricultural lands in Sta. Rosa town and seven separate residential landholdings in Cabanatuan City with a total area of 55 hectares.

One of its Cabanatuan sites is in Barangay Mabini Extension where DAR has established its provincial office. Reacting to the DAR summons, resident- occupants of the Estate in Brgy. Mabini Extension organized themselves into what they now call  “Samahan ng Nagkakaisang mga Residente at Kapit-Bahayanan ng Padre Crisostomo Estate, Mabini Extension, Cabanatuan City.”

Headed by Teofilo DR. Juatco, the group has sought a peaceful dialogue with local DAR officials to seek clarification on a number of issues.

Juatco said they are not against paying land rentals but would like tp clarify certain issues including the legitimate basis of the proposed increased rental rates, the actual intent of the late Father Crisostomo as documented in his Last Will and Testament, and why DAR has neglected to communicate with them and collect rentals over decades.

Many of them, he said are poor and have remained ignorant about their supposed rental obligations. The relatively more able among them, he added, have in fact mistakenly thought the real estate taxes they pay to their local goverment already include their land rentals.

Juatco said they also want to request DAR to adopt a “Rent-to-Own” scheme for them, under which the rentals they pay will be credited as installment payments for their lots, the titles of which should eventually be awarded to them.

The late Fr, Gregorio Crisostomo, a Filipino priest who hailed from Malolos, Bulacan, joined the Katipunan’s revolt against the Spaniards. He was reportedly captured, jailed and tortured by the colonial authorities.

After the Filipinos triumphed, Fr. Crisostomo resumed his priestly functions and was assigned to Nueva Ecija where he managed to establish some landholdings which he subsequently entrusted to the government for it to administer and use  for the benefit of the poor.