MANILA, Philippines - The Arlegui mansion, home to two presidents, has been returned by the government to the Laperal family.
The return of the mansion to the Laperals was one of the first acts of the new Aquino administration.
The mansion was among the houses offered by the Arroyo government to President Benigno Aquino III for use as his official residence, but in the end, he chose Bahay Pangarap, which is inside the Malacañang palace grounds, as his official home.
The bachelor Aquino will live alone at Bahay Pangarap, a one-bedroom, resort-like villa.
However, it will take weeks before Aquino will move into Bahay Pangarap since it will be modified to allow household staff to also sleep in the villa.
In the meantime, he will be staying in the Aquino family residence on Times St. in Quezon City.
The Laperal family welcomed the return of the mansion, but lamented that the government still owes them rent.
They refused to live there since the family matriarch, Tarcila Laperal Mendoza, was deeply traumatized after the mansion was forcibly taken from them by the Marcoses.
The mansion is now for sale to the tune of P1 billion. Sources say the Sultan of Brunei is among those interested to purchase the property.
Legal fight for mansion
Earlier, Lorna Kapunan, lawyer for the Laperal family, which owns the property, said many parties want to buy the mansion.
Kapunan represents Mendoza, who is close to 100 years old and is currently living in the United States.
Malacañang, through a compromise agreement entered into in 2009 by former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita with Mrs. Mendoza's family, already acknowledged the October 2007 ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) returning the property to its rightful owner.
The property was forcibly taken from the Laperal family when former President Ferdinand Marcos was elected to office in 1965. The late president cited security as the reason for expropriating the property.
The SC also reportedly ordered the government to pay back rentals of P20,000 a month starting July 1975, plus annual interest once the ruling becomes final. The ruling became final in 2008.
Kapunan, however, clarified that the computation of the government's "debt" to the Laperal family for the property should include the inflation rate.
In the compromise agreement, she said Malacañang agreed that the government would pay the Laperal family around P83 million.
The lawyer added that the government's first payment was made only last week amounting to P5 million, minus P500,000 withholding tax. She said her law firm is currently in a dispute with the government over the imposition of the withholding tax.
Aquino III and his family lived in the 12-room mansion after the elder Aquino opted not to stay in Malacañang Palace after the 1986 EDSA people power revolution.
Former President Fidel Ramos also chose to live in the Laperal Mansion. It was converted into an office during the time of former President Joseph Estrada and Mrs. Arroyo, who both chose to live in the Palace. With a report from Henry Omaga Diaz, ABS-CBN News