Issue of December 1, 2019
     
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The law of the case

The Supreme Court decision penned recently by retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio denying outright the land claims of the Abanag and Acop families pertains only to the two clans, and may not cover others similarly situated, unless otherwise impleaded as party litigants.

For other Baguio ancestral land claimants, the decision does not technically affect them, given jurisprudence called “the law of the case.”

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For example, in the case of the heirs of Lauro Carantes, the Court of Appeals found in their favor, albeit not exactly deciding the same on the merits.

The government, through the Office of the Solicitor General, lost on a technicality – by default, for failing to file required pleadings within the period set forth by the Rules of Court.

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I remember when I was a greenhorn lawyer at the time – my dad, Pedro Sr., filed a case praying the courts to return certain properties to the heirs of Quidno Carantes (my dad’s old man) which were acquired or transferred to persons or entities under “fraudulent circumstances.”

It seems all the alleged “deeds of sale” did not carry my lolo’s signature, only his supposed thumbmark.

My grandfather was an educated man, and all previous transactions entered into by him had his signatures affixed to every document in question.

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And so it was that then Court of First Instance Judge and later on Justice of the Court of Appeals Jose Ma. Chanco, rendered a decision granting my dad’s petition, but on appeal to the Supreme Court, Chanco’s decision was reversed, not on the merits, mind you, but because the heirs of Quidno “slept too long on their rights.”

In a landmark decision, the High Court established a legal doctrine called “Estoppel by Laches,” similar to other doctrines like the “Miranda warning,” where the High Court ruled that a failure to inform a suspect of his constitutional rights prior to being taken in custody by arresting officers constituted an error that practically negated the entire proceedings.

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Akin to this is the “Doctrine of the fruit of poisonous tree” where any and all evidence illegally seized is cast aside and no longer admissible in court.

So the heirs of Lauro Carantes can still sleep easy. All the High Court sustains the ruling of the Court of Appeals, their land claims, mostly located along South Drive and part of the old Luneta Hill, may be given due course. Keep your fingers crossed people. Unlike the heirs of Quidno, God never sleeps.

* * * * * * * * * *

In the marathon of Baguio’s political history we have experienced the leadership of a variety of chief executives belonging to different positions.

An Ibaloy doctor, also a Baguio pioneer, Dr. Jose Cariño Sr.; three former police officers, Col. Francisco “Ping” Paraan, retired general Ernesto Bueno and the current mayor, also a retired general, Benjamin Magalong; one certified public accountant, Jaime Bugnosen; two (civil) engineers, Bernie Vergara and Gil Mallare; a Visayan millionaire (in the days of old when a peso was a “fortune) Benito Lopez; one faith healer, Jun Labo; and four lawyers, Luis Lardizabal, Norberto de Guzman, Braulio Yaranon, and Morris Domogan.

The tenures of the four lawyer mayors were marked with controversies, (why are you rolling your eyes, reader) that if the healer resulted on his being twice removed on citizenship issues, while all the rest simply glided along, performing their duties as well as they could.

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Former congressman and former mayor Bernie Vergara, an engineer by profession, like I said, in line with Mayor Magalong’s dream to construct parking buildings by way of heeding the clamor of thousands of motorists for more parking areas, and also to help ease the city’s daily traffic snags, has come up with detailed blueprints where and how to construct parking buildings in the most convenient of locations, and at low cost, yet safe enough for parked vehicles in large numbers.

We are presently going over Vergara’s uniquely feasible plan, and we sincerely think Mayor Benjie should likewise look at it.

More about this in our next column.

Already retired from politics and government service, good old Bernie is still doing his bit for the city that he and us all love.

Mabuhay ka, Apo!

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In the meantime, we wish the Philippine team all the luck in the ongoing SEA Games. A first place finish would be a wonderful Christmas gift to the Filipino people.

As for the alleged financial and other snafus (situation normal, all fouled up) not surprising at all. It always happens every time big money is involved.

When it comes to national sports activities, trust not a lawyer to head it.

All these P and $ and zeroes can be dizzying.

A P50-million cauldron? Trust not the snails of events staff telling you to ask more sensible questions – like who will light up the cauldron, who will be the flag bearer, etc.

Instead do the math, and find out how much went to whom.

“Meke-meke” is the name of the game. The country never wins.

Lahat nga ba naman, pagkakakitaan ng ginto – sori po, pero gintong medalya ang aming tinutukoy.

Go get them, team!

You too, big boss!

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