What's with the LRA database?

MANILA, Philippines - The last few sessions of the Corona impeachment trial in the Senate this week saw the senator-judges furious about the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and its database.

The agency was lambasted for producing an unverified list of properties supposedly owned by Chief Justice Renato Corona and his family, and its database was doubted for its ability to search requested data.

To put it in layman's terms, the database was described in the trial as having functions similar to that of a popular search engine on the Internet.

But what is this database really all about?

Computerization

This database is part of the LRA's Land Titling Computerization Project (LTCP), which computerizes all business processes in the agency. This computerization project was developed under a build-operate-transfer (BOO) agreement, and puts the central office of the LRA in Quezon City and all the 167 Registers of Deeds (RDs) nationwide plugged into a computer network.

LRA Deputy Administrator Robert Nomar Leyretana explained to Rappler that the LRA central office only registers and issues land titles. It is the RDs that store all land titles and other documents pertaining to land transactions in their respective localities. "LRA central office doesn't have those records. They are fielded out in RDs," he said.

In the LTCP, all land titles and related documents filed with the RDs are scanned, converted to digital forms, and stored in an information database center, the backend of the whole system. The scanned titles are sorted in the database according to their transfer of certificate title (TCT) number or original certificate title (OCT) number.

When an individual requests for a copy of a certificate of land title, he simply needs to go to an RD branch and fill out a request form.



Leyretana explained that RD staff would normally require those requesting for information to provide the TCT number or OCT number, since these are the default information needed by the database to search for a certificate title.

The requesters could also indicate in the form the registered owner for each land title certificate being asked, though this is not being normally practiced. "We are cautious not to use the name [for the database search] because we know for a fact that there are namesakes. So as a general rule, we go by the [TCT or OCT] numbers because they are generic," Leyretana said.

Leyretana added that as far as they can remember, the name search was only practiced when the prosecution panel in the Corona impeachment trial researched on the land properties of the Chief Justice and his family. And because of what it caused the LRA in the trial, the agency had to disable the name search and to stick with the number search.  

"Because of these developments, and after deliberation, the administrator deemed it wise to review the rules. So he instructed us to study it and come up with regulation," Leyretana explained.

Database scope

The Senate trial revealed there are areas in the country not yet covered by the LRA database. In an exchange between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and LRA administrator Eulalio Diaz III in the trial, it was revealed that properties in Batangas, where Corona hailed from, are excluded in the database search.

Leyretana admitted there are areas in the country not yet covered by the agency's computerization project. Out of the 167 RDs in the country, only 112 or 113 have all their documents in digitized form. Prioritized in the computerization plan are RD branches in metropolitan areas like Manila and Cebu.

The LRA and RDs are being assisted by the Land Registration System Inc (LARES), an Indian-owned consortium, in building and maintaining the database. Based on the BOO agreement, LARES has to develop the system for 3 years and operate it for 10 years before handing over its full operations to the LRA.

Leyretana said that the LRA and LARES are already working on the computerization of the remaining RD branches. In the LTCP timeline, the computerization plan is already in its 4th of 5 stages. The first 4 stages deal with digitizing paperwork in the RDs, while the last stage deals with digitizing paperwork in the LRA central office.

"Certificates in these areas are, in fact, already scanned, though not yet digitized," Leyretana explained.

Cancelled titles still stored

As for the 112 or 113 RDs, all titles with them have been totally digitized and stored in the database. "Some of these titles may have been cancelled already, but still they are on the database," he said. This could be the reason, Leyretana explained, why the searched Corona properties reached up to 45.

Requests from the general public are granted so long as the request form in the RD offices is properly accomplished. Aside from the OCT or TCT number, the parties should also indicate in the form the purpose of their request.

"We cannot refuse the public to have access. That's the very reason why we cannot refuse even the prosecution panel," Leyretana said.

Leyretana clarified that it is the decision of the RDs, not the LRA central office any more, if the request would be granted. - Rappler.com