Lewis Yakich – Disappearance in Angeles City

Lewis Yakich / Louis Yakich the owner of a hotel and various businesses in Angeles City still hasn’t turned up after his magical disappearance.

 

this was posted on a blog and re-posted here –

 

Jessa was crying outside the main gate of The Cliff Resort at Subic. Inside, her mother Nanay Annie was hysterically pleading the security guards to let her daughter in.

Jessa’s family had been living a peaceful life at The Cliff. For 16 years, her parents were caretakers of the lush, one hectare beach resort overlooking Subic Bay in Brgy. Barretto, Olongapo. Nanay Annie and Tatay Benny had raised their 8 children at the resort. Their youngest son is 6 years old, and they dote on their lovely 3 year old granddaughter.

That peace was abruptly broken when minutes earlier, at least ten men, all from St. James Security Agency based in Olongapo, entered the resort and announced to everyone that The Cliff had new owners. The gates were chained and padlocked, streamers with the “new” owner’s name attached. Guards shouted “Pwede kayong lumabas! Di na kayo pwede bumalik!” (You can leave! You can’t go back in!).

The Cliff Resort

The Cliff was developed by ten families. The families were neighbors in a close-knit village in Quezon City where they all settled in the 1970’s. They were a mix of doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers. Their children grew up as close friends. In the 80’s, with their teenage children in tow, they regularly vacationed together. By the early 90’s, Holy Week trips to the Reyes’s (one of the ten families) vacation house in Olongapo became the habit. Banca rides around Subic Bay during the day; mattresses and sleeping bags side-by-side at night.

The Baloys, settlers in the area since Spanish times, had asked the Reyes couple if they were interested in an undeveloped one hectare grassy outcrop by the National Highway. The land had its own sandy beach cove, but access to the beach was impossible. It was separated by a steep cliff.

The Reyeses asked their close friends, their Quezon City neighbors, if they wanted to jointly purchase the lot. Treks were made up and down the outcrop, always with walking sticks to ward off the occasional snake that crosses their path. Finally, in early 1998, the ten families joined together and bought the land. By early 2000’s, they had built a road to the top of The Cliff, three structures where they had their meals and gatherings, and a winding pathway down the cliff to the sandy beach. They had a shared fondness for native architecture. The new structures were all made with cogon roofs. The surroundings were cultivated with various plants, trees and vines. Several years later, four of the ten families had built cottages in the resort. Native, rustic, classic, eclectic. Cogon roofs, capiz windows, bamboo and wrought iron railings, wooden furniture from all over the country. The details were all personal touches. The mosaic tiles of the round gazebo, the highest part of The Cliff, was inspired by a trip to Spain, painstakingly laid out in a red flower pattern.

July 6, 2016

It was 7:30 in the morning on July 6, a holiday, when the team of security guards invaded the Cliff. Jessa and Nanay Annie were coming home after their usual morning errands to the market. Brgy. Barretto Chairman Gie was at the gate with several kagawads soon after the other caretakers called him for help.

The main gate had been chained and padlocked. The security guards however forgot to bring a padlock for the pedestrian gate. While the guards were busily arguing with the barangay officials, Jessa and Nanay Annie managed to slip through the pedestrian entrance. That was when Jessa felt a firm, heavy-handed grip on her arm. Tisoy, one of the invading guards, separated her from her mother and dragged her out. With Jessa outside crying, and Nanay Annie hapless inside surrounded by burly guards, the usually mild-mannered Tatay Benny was outside with his daughter grinding his teeth pleading for them to be let in.

Kapitan Gie implored the guards to let Jessa and Tatay Benny in, vouching for them as long-time residents of The Cliff. The desperate pleadings fell on deaf ears. The reply was always the same: “New owners. Our orders are not to let anyone in.”

Kapitan Gie demanded they show papers. A thick folder was shown, with court cases, and photocopies of land titles all in the name of “YAKICH CUIZON CORPORATION, REPRESENTED BY LOUIS CORBETT YAKICH”.

There was no Court Order to show.

Rex and Rita

Sonny, one of the Cliff owners’ son, received the call from Rex.

Rex and his wife Rita were the caretakers of two cottages that Sonny’s parents built at The Cliff. They have 4 children. The youngest, Junior, is a precocious 7 year old who never tires of swimming in the resort’s pool and the beach.

Elsa, Sonny’s mother, and Rita were the faces of the two cottages for many years. Elsa and Rita were a perfect tandem in managing the resort. Both strong-willed women, Elsa always gave the personal owner’s touch to service, while Rita had the knack for finding ways to give what visitors wanted.

Elsa unexpectedly passed away in 2012. Less than 2 years later, Rita died from leukemia. Junior was 5 years old then.

By the morning of July 6, Rex had been the all-around handyman and caretaker of the peach and green cottages for 10 years. Previously, he worked at Elsa’s embroidery business back in Quezon City. When the peach and green cottages were built in 2006, Rex and Rita were asked if they wanted to relocate their family at the resort. The couple accepted.

Arriving at the Cliff

After frantic calls with the other owners of the Cliff, Sonny headed to Olongapo soon after the call from Rex. The drive was punctuated by back and forth calls with Kapitan Gie, the caretakers, lawyers and friends.

With the large streamers covering the view of the road, Sonny managed to slip in the pedestrian gate before the guards could block his way. The same as Kapitan Gie, all he was shown were court cases and land titles. No court order.

The local police could not help. Being neutral was understood as just keeping the peace, not forcing the intruders out, even though they had no court order, just papers of mysterious land titles that The Cliff owners knew nothing about.

The whole day was filled by calls to local officials, friends, lawyers, and meeting the caretaker families and employees. The four caretaker families had grown to 22 members by then, all residents, more than half of them growing up at the resort for most of their lives. Parents, children, a grandchild, and several generations of loyal dogs too. The kids were all enrolled in nearby schools. Home was enjoying the pool and the beach, and studying or relaxing under the many trees, kiosks and vines with the sea breeze cooling the afternoon heat.

All the local officials advised the same thing, report the incident at the local police blotter. But the owners thought: then what? The police will write down a report, but would not remove the invaders. It was time to get hold of a local lawyer.

By early evening, Sonny got to talk to Atty Q. His one-word advice: possession. The invaders were there for one purpose, to take the residents out and take control of the property. Courts and court orders do not matter. Once they get control of the property, it will take a painstakingly long court battle to get the Cliff back.

Harassment the following days

So possession it was. Fortunately, there was a break in the wall at the end of the property, right beside a 7-Eleven. The residents could get in and out of that muddy path without the invaders knowing. For the next couple days, the owners and caretakers tried to get the Cliff as full as possible with friends and neighbors to confuse the invading guards and prevent them from forcing everyone out. That strategy worked only when the weather was clear, and monsoon rains poured down the following days. Even more alarming, a neighbor reported that someone in a Fortuner was eyeing the access point, fetched a guard from the main gate, and showed the break to him.

They had to act fast. While the owners were trying to get the services of a separate security agency with the help of Atty Q, Rex had managed to get six neighborhood matons to secure their now not-so-secret side entrance. The path, though muddy and slippery, was now at least secure.

Most of the time the invading guards stationed themselves just inside the main gate, away from the cottages at the top of The Cliff. Some of their senior guards, like Tisoy, would sometimes go up and roam around the resort to inspect the premises.

Then on the night of July 9, at the height of the monsoon rains, 8 hooded, masked men went up the Cliff and stationed themselves in the Clubhouse, a few steps away from the cottages where everyone lived. A frantic call to Kapitan Gie was made, and he immediately sent 3 tanods. The tanods, just like Kap, knew the caretakers well. Some of the caretakers were barangay volunteers, one was a barangay scholar. The most senior tanod asked the hooded men who they were and what they were doing there. All they said was, “Confidential.”

That night, gripped with panic and fear, the families did what they usually didn’t do … they locked the doors to their rooms.

The harassment continued. The day after, four armed men riding a Toyota Fortuner stopped near the side entrance and accosted the residents’ guards if they were carrying firearms. One of the men was identified as Chief Inspector Ferdinand Mendoza, the provincial head of PNP-CIDG Zambales. His sister, at least on paper, is the owner of the invading St. James Security Agency. Two of the four men, that the residents named Tisoy and Bonnet, kept pointing that the residents’ guards had firearms. The first to be accosted, was Romy. Maj. Mendoza told him to remove his hand from a pouch hanging on his neck. Romy is an elbow amputee. Seeing that Romy was no threat, he then instructed the other guards to raise their shirts, and present their bags for inspection. They left when the warrantless search failed to yield any firearms or ammunition.

Yakich-Cuizon were also resorting to inhumane forms of harassment by attempting to cut off the residents’ supply of electricity and water to force them to vacate the Cliff. They had changed the utility accounts at Olongapo Electricity Distribution Company (OEDC) and Subic Water & Sewerage Co. (SUBICWATER) to the name of “Yakich-Cuizon Corp”. On the morning of July 18, a utility man from SUBICWATER was about to disconnect the water supply. The job order stated “VOL. DISCONNECTION BY NEW OWNER”. It was obvious what they were trying to accomplish. Lacking a court order, they were now coercing the residents to leave by making The Cliff uninhabitable and their continued stay even more unbearable.

The following days also saw the invading guards escort different people up the Cliff, showing them around, with the “guests” always exclaiming “Wow, ganda!”, “Ah diyan maganda ilagay ang …” (“Wow, beautiful!”, “Ah that’s where it’s nice to put …”).

The owners and residents now knew, Yakich-Cuizon Corp., with supposed titles to the land in their hands, were selling The Cliff to a local hotel.

Standing firm

While holding on desperately to maintain possession of the Cliff, Atty Q and his Associate P were busily leading the owners and residents in building up criminal and civil cases against Yakich-Cuizon Corp. and St. James Security Agency.

A week after the invasion, 11 of them went to the Olongapo prosecutor’s office to file criminal charges of grave threats, grave coercion, and qualified trespass to dwelling.

Soon after, a civil case of Forcible Entry with Application for a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction was filed at the Olongapo MTC.

Atty Q, Associate P and Sonny also had to meet with the lawyers of the utilities OEDC and SUBICWATER to present documents and explain that the disconnection orders by Yakich-Cuizon were illegal acts of dispossession to an innocent customer diligently paying their bills.

Most important of all, everyone had to keep their morale high and not lose hope to a state of siege. Hefty meals were always served, salaries and allowances given. The kids went to school, and coming home, played as they always did. Smiles never disappeared.

Charito “Chat” Bitangcol

Chat Bitangcol called Nanay Annie on July 7, the second day of the invasion. “O, ano nagyari diyan? … Ah, di ko alam yan. Kakagaling ko lang sa Cebu (Hey, what happened there? … Oh, I know nothing about that. I just came from Cebu).” Little did Nanay Annie know that Bitangcol was already visiting the OEDC and SUBICWATER offices, having The Cliff’s utility accounts changed to the name of “Yakich-Cuizon Corp.” … with instructions to have both electricity and water services disconnected.

Officially, the fork tongued Bitangcol is a customs broker at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. To others, she’s a known unscrupulous real estate agent. To her victims, she’s the most despicable land grabbing operator in Olongapo City.

With her contacts at the DENR Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Olongapo and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) based in Iba, Zambales, she falsifies residency documents, manipulates land surveys, blatantly perjures in sworn affidavits, and harasses residents to leave their homes.

Like-minded unscrupulous businessmen seek her out when they want land they can’t legally take, or don’t want to purchase at the fair price. She has her eyes peeled and ears open for any news of a vulnerable lot. With her snake tongue turning into silver, she convinces anyone interested to fund her takeover. She gets a hefty commission of course, or keeps the land to herself.

Yes, Janet Napoles is evil. At least, she didn’t force innocent people out of their homes (that we know of).

The conspiracy: shady businessmen, land grabbers, gov’t officials

Louis Corbett Yakich, together with his brothers and business partners, owns and operates the Lewis Grand Hotel, High Society Night Club, plus other properties and bars in Angeles City. Yakich-Cuizon Corporation is the corporate name of Lewis Grand Hotel.

In early 2013, Louis Yakich (usually spelled Lewis in media reports) approached the owners of The Cliff. He wanted to buy the whole resort for P150 million. Meetings were held, documents shared. By the 3rd quarter of 2013, Yakich backed out of the deal, claiming “funding issues”.

Then suddenly in late 2013, the Cliff owners received some baffling news. Their title to the resort, the whole 10,005 sqm, was about to be cancelled. After 15 years of peacefully developing, maintaining and occupying The Cliff, they found out that a group of 5 relatives of the Baloys had filed a case to have the 13,332 sqm mother title, which The Cliff was part of, cancelled. Apparently, the case was dismissed by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Olongapo. Inexplicably, the Court of Appeals, in 2010, reversed the RTC’s decision and decided to cancel the mother title and “declared void ab initio”, including all other titles that were derived from it. The CA explicitly wrote that all the heirs, including all members of both the petitioners (the 5 Baloy relatives) and the respondents (the association representing the Baloy heirs), were “co-owners of the parcel of land subject to the case”.

Knowing that The Cliff owners were innocent purchasers of part of the contested property, the 5 relatives didn’t even name The Cliff owners as respondents in the case. No notices were annotated on the Cliff’s title. They even acknowledged in their petition that the Cliff owners were indeed innocent purchasers.

Bitangcol surfaced soon after the owners learned about the court case. She offered the owners P80 million for the Cliff, and that she’ll take care of everything. She wasn’t clear who she was representing.

Perturbed, but confident that they’ll be able to stop the cancellation, the owners hired lawyers to stop the cancellation in the courts, the Registry of Deeds and the Land Registration Authority (LRA). On May 4, 2015, the LRA issued a Consulta with words that were never part of the Court of Appeals decision. The property was now, in the LRA’s words and in bold face, “unregistered land”.

This was the moment that Bitangcol was waiting for, or anticipated. Even as the owners petitioned the Court of Appeals on the LRA’s opinion, Bitangcol managed to have their title cancelled at the Olongapo Registry of Deeds on July 1, 2015. On the very same day, she wrote a letter to the RTC that she was the attorney-in-fact of the 5 Baloy relatives, and that she was “securing the services of the COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICE (CENRO), OLONGAPO CITY, for the purpose of applying for new title/s”.

In three months, after a series of brazenly false claims, misrepresented documents, perjured affidavits and hurried approvals, new titles to The Cliff were sold to Yakich-Cuizon Corp. for P5 million.

Republic Act 730

In 1952, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act No. 730. That law was short and simple. If you’re a Filipino citizen, and reside and have built a house on public land not more than 1,000 sqm, you can buy the lot from the government. It’s called a private or direct sale.

The whole process is managed by the DENR regional, provincial (PENRO) and city (CENRO) offices.

On August 10, 2015, Chat Bitangcol got 10 people to apply for Miscellaneous Sales Applications (MSA) to buy a subdivided Cliff Resort at the Olongapo CENRO office. The previous month, Bitangcol convinced a DENR team to create a survey (which they didn’t actually do) and divided the property into 10 lots. Why did she subdivide The Cliff? So she can ‘purchase’ the lots via a private sale as R.A. 730 requires lots to be not more than 1,000 sqm.

The 10 applicants were unknown to any of the Cliff owners or caretakers. Half were from Metro Manila, the others were from other parts of Olongapo. All of them had the same entries in the MSA:

Aside from not being residents of The Cliff (and probably haven’t even been in it), they stated that the property had no improvements or occupants, despite the existence of roads, several villas, meeting places, and a swimming pool.

A short month after, on September 22, 2015, the 10 applicants received their Original Certificates of Title (OCT) from PENRO Zambales. They paid the government P78/sqm.

A week after on September 30, the 10 applicants signed Deeds of Absolute Sale, selling their new OCTs to Yakich-Cuizon Corporation for P500,000 each.

After another week, on October 6, 2015, Yakich-Cuizon Corporation got their 10 Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) to The Cliff. Those were the title numbers they pasted on their streamers.

On October 23, 2015, Yakich-Cuizon mortgaged the titles to Guagua Rural Bank. They received P40 million.

Everything happened without The Cliff’s owners or caretakers knowing.

The facts stated above were taken from publicly available documents retrieved from the Olongapo Registry of Deeds and DENR PENRO Zambales offices. Copies of those documents will be posted soon.

Taking back the gate

After the invasion, despite pleas from the owners and caretakers, the police wouldn’t lift a finger to drive out the invaders. And help from the courts took time. So on July 21, after 15 days of being trapped and continuously harassed in their own homes, the owners and caretakers decided to take matters into their own hands.

With the help of more than a dozen men from the community, they all quietly and peacefully marched down to the main gate, passed through the bunch of St. James security guards, and broke the chains installed by the invaders. All the invaders could do was watch. Tisoy, the team leader of the guards, ran away.

For the first time in 15 days, everyone was now free to enter and exit. There were plenty of hugs, cries, and even screams of relief. The neighbors joined in the celebrations too.

Unfortunately, that celebration was premature.

The CIDG Raid

Early afternoon on July 26, the owners and the lawyers were having a meeting in one of the villas inside The Cliff. One of the caretakers suddenly came rushing and frantically shouting “Pumasok ang Army! Pumasok ang Army!” (“The Army came in! The Army came in!”).

The owners and lawyers stepped out the villa, and saw a phalanx of heavily armed men rushing in their direction. It was a police raiding team.

In front was Chief Inspector Ferdinand Mendoza, the head of the PNP-CIDG Zambales, the same police officer that accosted the residents’ guards during the first week of the invasion, the same officer whose sister (at least on paper) owns the invading St. James Security Agency. He brought along at least a dozen SWAT members, all in full gear and armed with AR-15s, or what Filipinos generically call Armalite. There were at least another 10 CIDG men in their distinctive blue shirts.

And disturbingly, several men without uniforms, without IDs, carrying backpacks. They are what are called “police assets”.

Atty Q confronted Maj. Mendoza, who showed a search warrant for illegal firearms. It was from a judge in Angeles City.

The search warrant listed 5 people: the caretakers Nanay Annie and Rex accused of possessing a Caliber .38 revolver each, plus 3 women with the same last name as one of the owners, having either a 9mm pistol, or a hand grenade. The 3 unknown women weren’t even owners nor residents. They probably found them on Facebook.

Atty Q was furious. He, and everyone else, knew what the raid was for.

The owners and caretakers were all shouting, with some taking videos on their phones, while some of the officers were trying to take the phones away from their hands. One of the owners was led to the safety of one of the rooms by the caretakers to prevent her from getting a heart attack. The owners were all senior citizens, none less than 75 years old. Mr. Reyes, who was present during the raid, is 84. It was chaos.

Atty Q was understandably fuming. Contrary to police procedures for searches, there was no representative from the local barangay, no representative from the local police station. Luckily news spread fast. Kapitan Gie, the barangay captain, called one of the owners to verify what was happening. He, and the local police station commander, rushed to The Cliff.

The “assets” with the backpacks disappeared. The caretakers knew why they were there. The residents locked the doors to their rooms, and guarded them outside.

Reaching The Cliff and reading the search warrant, Kapitan Gie confirmed that only 2 of the 5 listed were actual residents of The Cliff.

Eventually, things calmed down. Nanay Annie was still wearing her apron when she found out she was accused of having a gun. She was cooking lunch for everyone when the raid started.

Order was somewhat restored. Kapitan Gie accompanied the CIDG men to Nanay Annie’s room for an orderly search, while the lead barangay kagawad escorted the CIDG to Rex’s room. The caretakers and owners were all taking videos during the search. Of course, no weapons were found.

After the search, Atty Q and the owners narrated to Maj. Mendoza and the other police officers the history of the ownership and development of The Cliff. By that time, they already discovered how Bitangcol and Yakich-Cuizon fraudulently acquired titles, and showed the documents to Maj. Mendoza. They insisted that it should be Bitangcol and Yakich-Cuizon that the CIDG investigate instead.

After all, part of the CIDG’s official mission is investigating professional syndicates. Lewis is a scammer. Lewis is possibly a drug dealer.

Fearing a planted drug raid

The owners, residents and Atty Q had no illusions that the CIDG would turn around and investigate Yakich-Cuizon, who is the client of the invading St. James Security Agency whose owner (at least on paper) is Maj. Mendoza’s sister. In fact, a few minutes after the police raiding team forced their way into The Cliff, at least 10 additional guards from St. James arrived to secure the resort. They too left after the CIDG withdrew after the negative search.

But the owners and residents were now gripped with fear they had not felt before.

It was not just about shady characters wanting to steal their land. Those characters were also capable, and willing, to have innocent people they steal from, jailed.

Lewis or Louis Yakich is a major scammer, no wonder he is on the run. Many people are after him from banks to gangsters.

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2 Responses

  1. Michael Braver says:

    One need look no further than land of smiles for all answers.

  2. tom says:

    would you mind elaborating a little more? what happened to yakich and the cliff?

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