Judge rules in favor of ex-governor in a land dispute


Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has ruled in favor of former governor Pedro Pangelinan Tenorio, who sued a couple over the title of a piece of land on Saipan.

In an order last Thursday, Camacho denied a motion of defendants Antonio Salas Camacho and Elphidia Pangelinan Camacho to set aside the court’s entry of default against them.

The judge determined that the couple was properly served with Tenorio’s lawsuit.

Camacho granted Tenorio’s renewed motion for default judgment and ruled that the fee simple of the land is quieted in favor of the former governor.

That means the Camacho couple and all others have no estate right, title, lien or interest in the property, and are stopped from making any adverse claim in Tenorio’s title to the property.

The property’s measurement was not indicated in the order.

The judge ruled that there is no legal ground to set aside the court’s entry of default.

Camacho said the defendants were served by publication of the amended summons that was published in a local paper on Dec, 18, 24, and 31 in 2015, and on Jan. 8, 2016. That means that, although the defendants were not personally served at their “dwelling house or usual place of abode” as required by the Commonwealth Rules of Civil Procedure, they were served by publication.

Camacho said the clerk of court made an entry of default on Feb. 4, 2016.

According to court records, the issue involves a dispute over two competing deeds issued by Benigno Kaipat for a piece of land.

Antonio and Elphidia Camacho purportedly hold a deed executed by Kaipat on Aug. 28, 1967, and recorded 17 years later on Jan. 3, 1984.

Tenorio purportedly holds a deed executed by Kaipat on March 22, 1972, and recorded 13 days later on April 4, 1972. Tenorio filed a petition to quiet title in 2015.

The order concerns whether the Camacho couple were properly served with the petition to quiet title.

Tenorio attempted to serve the defendants both by personal service at a residence, as well as by publication.

At the Nov. 14, 2017, evidentiary hearing, the court heard testimony from process server Rainaldo Agulto and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Gary Camacho on the issue of whether the defendants were served at the defendants’ residence.

Agulto testified that he went to the defendants’ business location in Lower Base and was informed that the defendants were off-island.

Agulto also went to a house on Capital Hill, to serve the summons and petition on the defendants.

Agulto knew that this house on Capital Hill was the defendants’ residence. However, when Agulto arrived at the property, the house was abandoned, the yard was overgrown, the property was covered in garbage, and CUC had turned off the utilities.

Agulto knew Gary Camacho, the defendants’ son, through his work at CUC.

Agulto asked Gary Camacho where his parents were, and Gary Camacho informed him that his parents were off-island receiving medical treatment.

Agulto served the summons and petition on Gary Camacho at the latter’s residence in Kagman.

Agulto then executed two declarations of service, stating that he had delivered the summons and petition on July 7, 2015, to Gary Camacho (son) (authorized to receive service) at the defendants’ “residence in Kagman.”

Gary Camacho testified that his parents do not live with him, and that the house belongs to him and his wife.

Gary Camacho further testified that he does not usually see his parents, and that he barely communicates with them.

Gary Camacho testified that he did not accept documents from Agulto for his parents.

In November 2015, Tenorio made a motion for extension of time and leave to serve process by publication.

Michael Dotts, counsel for Tenorio, told the court that the defendants’ son accepted the summons and petition and disclosed that the defendants were in Guam for medical treatment.

According to Dotts, “defendants’ son is now refusing to cooperate with plaintiff in serving defendants.”

Dotts said the son has indicated that “his parents relocated outside the Commonwealth, therefore the service on him at what was their residence was not valid service on them.”

The complaint was served on the Office of the Attorney General.

On Feb. 1, 2016, Tenorio filed a request for entry of default.

The clerk of court made an entry of default in this case on Feb. 4, 2016.

At the Feb. 5, 2016 hearing, Gary Camacho appeared with Matthew Holley, who requested time to file a motion to set aside the entry of default.

Dotts agreed to this request and the matter was taken off calendar.

On Jan. 16, 2017, Tenorio filed a renewed motion for default judgment. The defendants filed their opposition.

The defendants then filed their motion to set aside entry of default. Tenorio filed his opposition.

Both motions came before the court on June 6, 2017. Since there was uncertainty over whether the defendants were personally served, the judge ordered an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the residence in Kagman where the summons and petition were delivered to Gary Camacho was the defendants’ residence.

The hearing was held on Nov. 14, 2017.

Both Tenorio and the defendants made motions regarding default in this case. Tenorio filed a renewed motion for default judgment.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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