by Jimmy K. Laking
Ancestral land claimants in Baguio City assailed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples last week for abandoning their cause and for not lifting a finger against what appears to be an organized effort to disenfranchise them.
“The indigenous peoples of Baguio are suffering and are being eased out,” said lawyer Alfonso Aroco, indicating that the NCIP has not been on the side of ancestral land claimants in defending their land titles.
Lawyer Manuel Cuilan said he was convinced there seems to be a systematic effort to deprive ancestral land claimants in Baguio and Benguet of their rights to have titles to their lands.
Arroco cited as classic case of disenfranchisement the cancellation of ancestral land titles 301, 302 and 303 by the NCIP itself – titles that were registered with the City Register of Deeds.
The titles covered those claimed by the heirs of Cosen Piraso (over the Vallejo Casa area), heirs of Josephine Abanag in Pacdal and the heirs of Lauro Carantes over parts of South Drive.
“The cancellation of the ancestral land titles is tantamount to a cancellation of the Certificate of Ancestral Titles since it now appears that these lands were not issued titles at all,” said Arroco.
He said the NCIP resolution declared as unaccounted or missing the ancestral land titles covering the three areas which are supposed to be in the custody of the NCIP’s ancestral domain office that is subject to inventory yearly.
Cuilan said the Bases Conversion Development Authority filed a case to cancel the CALTs and the certificate of ancestral domain titles issued over those claimed by the heirs of Kellet, Morie Shodang as well as the ancestral domain of Happy Hallow claimed by the Canuto, Siso, Pitlongay, Paytocan, Liwan and Otinguey clans.
The clans claim a total of 146 hectares inside Camp John Hay were surveyed and eventually issued ancestral land titles.
“Now they are working to have these titles cancelled,” lamented Pacita Medina of the Otinguey clan. “Don’t we have rights to our lands under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act?”
She added when the claimants raised the matter to the NCIP, an NCIP official ignored their concern and even shouted down at them.
Another claimant said BCDA has practically prevented the land claimants from even improving their houses and that checkpoints were installed to prevent improvements.
The ancestral land claimants vowed to oppose moves to cancel their ancestral land titles even as they called on the NCIP to take their side as mandated by the IPRA.