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High court denies John Pangelinan’s appeal

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THE CNMI Supreme Court has affirmed the ownership of land in Tanapag belonging to Secundina Untalan Pangelinan and daughter Selina Marie Pangelinan and denied John Pangelinan’s appeal.

In a slip opinion issued on Friday, Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, Justice John Manglona and Justice Perry Inos upheld the ruling of Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho who found that John Pangelinan has no standing in his claims regarding the Tanapag property and that he is not an heir of the decedent.

Citing the statute regarding intestate succession, the justices said John Pangelinan, as a first cousin, is not on the list of people to take in intestate succession.

These people include the surviving spouse, parents, and siblings of the decedent, the justices said. John “Pangelinan is thus not an heir with even a speculative interest such that if he prevails he will be entitled to a distributive share in the estate.”

As for John Pangelinan’s claim that the property in question does not belong to the estate, the justices said the appropriate vehicle to pursue this claim is a suit to quiet title, not probate.

The slip opinion noted that the dismissal of the quiet title claim of John Pangelinan in Superior Court is pending before the high court involving the same parties and property.

Secundina and Selina Pangelinan sued John Pangelinan for abusing the legal system to extort money from them by interfering in a probate matter despite not being a creditor.

According to the complaint, Norberto Pangelinan, Secundina’s husband, passed away in August 2015. He owned three parcels of land in Tanapag. Before he died, Norberto entered into an agreement to lease the property to Peak Development LLC for 55 years for a total rent of $3.2 million.

Norberto also entered into an agreement to sell his reversionary interest in the Tanapag property to Pedro Kileleman, but before the transaction could close Norberto passed away.

Secundina Pangelinan initiated a probate for the estate of Norberto so that the lease and sale transaction could be properly completed. But during the probate, John Pangelinan challenged Norberto’s title to the Tanapag property without any evidentiary or legal support, the complaint stated.

Judge Camacho, in his ruling, found that based on the testimonies and exhibits there was nothing in John Pangelinan’s relationship with the plaintiffs that justified his interference.

Judge Camacho said John Pangelinan “intentionally” and “improperly” interfered with the performance of the contracts between the plaintiffs and Norberto’s estate with their dealings with Peak Development, and this caused the plaintiffs’ performance of the contracts to be more expensive and burdensome.

The judge also found John Pangelinan liable to pay the plaintiffs for the pecuniary loss that the mother and daughter experienced as a result of John Pangelinan’s interference.

John Pangelinan showed his primary desire to cause the plaintiffs to expand legal fees by filing almost 500 pages of frivolous filing, “all of which the court denied,” the judge said.

Most importantly, he added, “John knows that his claim in the probate was meritless and that he had no legitimate claim to the Tanapag properties.”

The plaintiffs have requested the Superior Court to issue an order directing John Sablan Pangelinan to file a bond or provide other security in any form to ensure payment of damages and double costs on appeal.

Judge Camacho then ordered Secundina and Selina Pangelinan to file their request for damages and/or other remedies against John Pangelinan.

In a ruling dated May 21, 2020, Judge Camacho found that John Pangelinan committed the tort of abuse of process in the estate.

Judge Camacho said Secundina and Selina Pangelinan have also proven that John Pangelinan committed the tort of intentional interference with another’s performance of their own contract by tortuously interfering in the contractual relations between plaintiffs and Peak Development (CNMI) LLC.

On June 11, 2020, John S. Pangelinan appealed the judge’s ruling.

On June 22, 2020, Secundina and Selina Pangelinan, through attorney Janet King, filed a motion for damages, cost of litigation and attorney’s fees.

They want John Pangelinan to pay them $7.61 million in damages for interfering into a probate of a $3.2 million estate belonging to Secundina’s deceased husband.

King requested the court to issue an order holding John Pangelinan liable to pay her clients $90,281.92 for attorney’s fees and costs; $256,446.85 for damages in the form of investment interest; $798,580.97 for emotional distress; and $2,661,936.58 in punitive damages.

Secundina and Selina Pangelinan also wanted the court to hold John Pangelinan liable to pay them $3.8 million for tortious interference claim.

On July 9, 2020, the mother and daughter filed a motion to compel John Pangelinan to post an appeal bond or other forms of security in such amount as may be necessary to ensure payment of damages and double costs on appeal.

Attorney King said John Pangelinan has the present financial ability to post a bond or to provide security to ensure payment because he has inherited real properties previously.

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