The Court of Appeals Special 5th Division has sustained its earlier ruling ordering Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. to cease and desist from improving his claimed property within the Mt. Sto. Tomas Forest Reserve in Tuba, Benguet.
The Appellate Court, in its order dated Oct. 29, denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Aliping when he questioned an earlier ruling involving his claimed property.
In its June 8 decision, CA stopped Aliping and those acting for and in his behalf from bulldozing, leveling or conducting any earth-moving activity; improving the old building standing on the land, building any structure there, and continuing with the road opening activities.
The same order also directed the camp of Aliping to mitigate the soil erosion caused by earth-moving activities from his claimed property leading to the siltation of the Amliang dams 1, 2A, 2B, and 3 of the Baguio Water District.
Aliping questioned CA’s order, saying it deprived him of his right over the property in question, which he acquired from the previous owners who had acquired vested right over it long before Mt. Sto. Tomas was declared through Presidential Proclamation 581 dated July 19, 1940 as a forest reserve.
Petitioners led by Bishop Carlito Cenzon told the CA that Aliping failed to prove his ownership over the property he earlier developed. They argued his alleged property right can be limited by the valid exercise of police power.
The CA ruled that private rights respected by Proclamation 581 are those which were acquired before its issuance in 1940, an uninterrupted possession of the property as owners for a period of 30 years.
Aliping failed to establish that the persons from whom he acquired the property had satisfied the requirement.
The Baguio solon also claimed that for the court to stop him from improving his claimed property while allowing telecommunication companies to use the forest reserve for their relay stations is a clear violation of equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution.
The CA said Presidential Decree 705 allows other special land uses of forestland, as long as they have beneficial purposes but do not in any way impair forest resources. These companies were also granted permits, which the solon failed to rebut by clear and convincing affirmative evidence.
The court also informed the Department of Interior and Local Government regional office of the need to issue corresponding directives in relation to paragraph 5a to 5e and 8 of its June 2015 order.
Paragraph 5 of the June order directed Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez to cease and desist from issuing any and all kinds of permits to conduct activities within the Mount Santo Tomas Forest Reserve, including but not limited to the operation of businesses therein and utilizing any area for filming movies and television shows, without clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and to cancel the permits already issued;
Instruct the Municipal Engineer to cease and desist from issuing building permits within the Mount Santo Tomas Forest Reserve without clearance from the DENR;
To come up with the necessary ordinance outlawing the issuance of tax declarations over portions of the Mount Santo Tomas forest reserve, and prohibiting the alienation of portions of the same;
To coordinate with the DENR-CAR, Penro, Cenro, and other government agencies in guarding the forest reserve against further cutting of trees, illegal excavation and other forms of earth-moving activities, illegal mining, construction of houses and other buildings, and expansion of vegetable gardens; and
To incorporate the conservation of the Mount Santo Tomas Forest Reserve in its Environmental Code, or if there be none, for respondent municipal mayor to immediately take steps to pass such a code.
Paragraph 8 has directed the chief of police of Tuba to enforce environmental laws which include the apprehension of violators of forest laws, mining laws and other environmental laws.