Guam – A map, drawn 35 years ago by former land surveyor Tommy Andersen is at issue in a Superior Court probate case. GovGuam is opposing a motion to add over 100-thousand square meters of shoreline to the Perez Estate property. And Territorial Land Surveyor Paul Santos was adamant on the stand Thursday that the land belongs to the people of Guam.
More than 15 years after his conviction in connection with the notorious land theft cases of the early 90s, former land surveyor Tommy Andersen was back in Superior Court to explain problems with yet another one of his survey maps.
He was there to answer questions about a map he drew back in 1977, lot 361 in Injarajan, the Estate of Gregorio Cruz Perez..
Andersen’s map of lot 361 encompasses 220 hectares, the 1917 deed of transfer for the property said it was only 96 hectares. But that’s not the issue in this probate case. Lot 361 went through the court registration process and was signed and certified as being 220 hectares in 1987, long before Andersen’s conviction on charges related to land theft.
At issue in this probate case is a motion to revise the Perez family claim by 106-thousand square meters. It is shoreline property. Assistant Attorney General Bill Bischoff is representing GovGuam.
“We oppose it now because the map is what it is,” said Bischoff. “They got what they claimed back in 1987 and were not going to give them anymore.”
Territorial Surveyor Paul Santos testified against the Perez claim on the stand Thursday. He said that the additional 106-thousand square meters the Perez Estate is seeking belongs to the people of Guam.
“They had their day in court many, many years ago … 1987 … and that deed says 96 hectares. They set their boundary then. That’s what stands. As far as I’m concerned that’s what stands. That’s the boundary then, that’s the way it should be now. Anything left over the Government should retain, or the public should retain.”
Attorney Pete Perez is one of the attorney’s representing his family’s motion for a revision, not an expansion of their current 220 hectare lot, he says.
Perez acknowledges that the Andersen map is defective 2 respects.
First, Andersen erroneously included a portion Talafofo Bay in his survey. That, says Perez, should be corrected, giving back that portion to GovGuam. And the second “mistake” in Andersen’s map is that it did not include a 106-thousand square meter strip along the shoreline, south of the bay.
“Both mistakes should be corrected and by correcting those mistakes, the Territory of Guam gets all of Talafofo Bay … corrects the eastern part of the boundary which, of course, the Territory has no use for because its completely inaccessible.”
But Bischoff counters that the shoreline strip left out of Andersen’s 1977 map was not a mistake.
“I’d like to think that at least one person in the Government of Guam, did his job, did a diligent research on this, and maybe saw that they were being permitted to register 220 hectares based upon a chain of title to only 96 hectares,” said Bischoff. “Maybe that person at least saw that well, the public is keeping a wide stretch, a wide strip along the shoreline. Maybe he saw that as some quid pro quo, some give and take, and maybe that’s the only reason why the Government acquiesced in 1987 to them registering 220 hectares based upon a chain of title of 96 hectares.”
Andersen was convicted in connection with a scheme in which private properties were vastly expanded in size by incorporating un-surveyed GovGuam land into private claims.
But Perez rejects any suggestion that Andersen deliberately expanded the claim of his families estate. Its not unusual, he argues, that surveys in modern times have come up with significantly more property than what was recorded a hundred years ago
“I can cite you right now probably 10 land registration cases where the area has increased ten fold,” said Perez. “And the reason is that back in the late eighteen-hundreds, the early nine-teen hundreds, most of the properties here on Guam were not surveyed. They weren’t surveyed.”
And that continues to be the case for much of GovGuam’s land says Santos. “There is still quit a number of Government lands that are un-surveyed, or public lands that are un-surveyed.”