April 16, 2024

In the same way the Australian government formally apologized to its indigenous peoples referred to as the Stolen Generations, Councilor Jose Molintas is urging the city government of Baguio to apologize to the IPs who lost their ancestral lands and discriminated upon through imposition of foreign laws.
In a privilege speech delivered during the city council session on Sept. 19, Molintas said the Baguio IPs – the Ibaloys and Kalanguyas – deserve an apology for being victims of discrimination over a long period of time since Spanish colonizers and later the Philippine government that considered the ancestral lands owned by IPs since time immemorial as properties of the State.
He said the government should acknowledge such discrimination on Baguio IPs and for it commit to work harder for the remuneration of the IPs’ lost ancestral lands, if not its restoration.
“The Baguio IPs have been chasing for their lands since the 1900s, according to Ibaloy elders Joana Cariño and Kathleen Okubo, because their lands were not recognized and respected by the colonizers and this government that took over…I believe that we, the present officials of Baguio, owe them a public apology like what the Australian government did to its aboriginal peoples,” Molintas, an Ibaloy, said.
On Feb. 13, 2008, the Australian go-vernment through Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to indigenous Australians for forced removals of Australian indigenous children from their families on racial grounds by Australian federal and state government agencies. The government apology was widely applauded as it laid down foundations for healing to take place in their country.
“By analogy, the Baguio IPs lost their ancestral lands through the imposition of foreign laws implemented in a discriminatory manner, as if they were inexistent under the Spanish regime. They were recognized as owners of the land they occupied since time immemorial by the Americans, but the Philippine government kept ignoring their right over the past 120 years,” Molintas said.
The Ibaloys and Kalanguyas enjoyed the abundance in their lands now known as Burnham Park, Camp John Hay, and Dontogan barangay. The vast pasturelands led by the Cariños and Caranteses and fields tended to by clan members were where the IPs held their rituals and cultural activities that served as the socio-economic and political structure of the community because they settled and set aside internal and external disputes to maintain peaceful coexistence with their neighbors.
But this was disrupted when Baguio was chartered, Molintas said, because they had to go to court and get a title, only to be denied because they had no Spanish-issued titles to show.
“In the case of Mateo Cariño vs. Insular Government of the Philippines, we know that he lost his application, and he went as far as the United States in order to get permission for the issuance of a title over his lands known as the Camp John Hay. As required by the Public Land Act, you have to apply for land registration, otherwise all these lands known to be townsite area will be taken by the city to be sold to outsiders,” Molintas said.
He said for more than 50 years, Cariño and his ancestors had lived in the area already, maintained fences sufficient for the holding of his cattle, his father cultivated parts and used other parts for pasturing cattle, and he used it too when he took over, and they all had been recognized as owners by the Igorots. Cariño inherited the land from his father in accordance with Igorot customs and not through the Spaniards.
The government opposed his application, contending these lands belong to the State under Spanish law or the so-called Regalian Doctrine which says all lands belong to the Crown of Spain, except those that were given as privilege titles.
Cariño made several applications in 1893 and 1896 but to no avail. In 1901, the lands were registered to him under the Mortgage law as regards possessory title, only because under the Philippine Commission Act of 926 of 1903, Benguet or its coverage was exempted. Eventually the Supreme Court said in this case it might be proper and sufficient to say that when as far as testimony or memory goes, the land that has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership will be presumed to have been held in the same way even before the Spanish conquest and never to have been public.
This is the Native Title enshrined in the 1935 Philippine Constitution and by which Cariño and other landowners by virtue of this possession under claim of private ownership since time immemorial became an exemption in the coverage of the Regalian Doctrine.
However, Molintas said since Baguio was chartered, the city had been selling the lands through townsite, commercial, and miscellaneous sales applications.
“In short Baguio had been making money out of these ancestral lands. This system, moreover, encouraged illegal occupation, which is one of our problems now because people have encroached into our reserved lands for public purposes,” he said.
Molintas added the yearly Baguio Day celebration, which is being done without acknowledging this historical discrimination against the Baguio IPs leading to the loss of their land, is “offensive.”
“But our government will never realize it until we, the city council, start to discuss and do something about it. (If) we are sensitive and not ignorant of the past injustices, then we should formally apologize to them and avoid being offensive in the next celebrations,” Molintas said.
The councilor also pointed out the absence of Baguio IPs in the newly constituted advisory council of the city, which he said is supposed to empower the Ibaloys and Kalanguyas to participate in the direction of the city’s development.
Molintas said the creation of an advisory council of five members who are IPs was one of the notable provisions in the old city charter written by U.S. Justice George Malcolm, which should allow the IPs to express their views on all actions taken or proposed by the city council and recommend or suggest in legislations, public improvements, and other matters of interest to the city constituents.
“It is unfortunate that we do not find this provision in the so-called revised Baguio City charter of 2022,” he said.
He added it is sad to note that previous officials did not fight for respect of ancestral lands when the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was enacted in 1997, and it is ironical that Baguio City, where the Native Title came from, was exempted in the coverage of the IPRA since it shall be governed by its charter.
The IPRA also provides for the appointment of an IPMR to the city council, but the councilor said it is unfortunate Baguio does not have one in the city council.
Baguio’s new charter, he added, would readily show the ancestral land claims of Baguio IPs were only not given emphasis but it was also subordinated to the interest of the Bases Conversion Development Authority, which is claiming the entire CJH area including its adjoining 13 barangays.
He believes this is a ground to ask for the city charter’s amendment and hopes Rep. Mark Go will initiate a dialogue among stakeholders so the city can lobby that the BCDA should only focus on the special economic zone.
Molintas is expected to craft proposed resolutions on the matters he raised, which include asking the mayor to add representatives in the newly constituted advisory council, issue an apology to the Baguio IPs which should be held in a special occasion such as during the World IP Day next year, and reiterate for the creation of a committee for Aug. 9, 2023 World IP Day; ask event organizers to seek the advice of Igorot elders regarding the conduct of rituals that will not give wrong impressions about the true customs and traditions of Baguio; and for the city representative to allocate funds for information materials on the revised city charter, participate in the working group created by the city council to study the vague provisions of the revised city charter, and submit proposals for its immediate amendment. – Hanna C. Lacsamana