May 24, 2024

The First Citizens of Baguio City Organization-Indigenous Peoples Organization (FCBCO-IPO) wishes to state its stand in relation to recent developments following the issuance by the Supreme Court of a decision in 2019 nullifying the Certificates Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs) and their derivative titles covering lots claimed by the heirs of Cosen Piraso and Josephine Abanag.
The petition was filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, the counsel of the Republic of the Philippines as petitioner, at the Court of Appeals. Baguio City is not a co-petitioner.
The respondents from the government were the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Land Registration Authority, and Register of Deeds Baguio while the private respondents were the heirs of Josephine Abanag and Mercedes A. Tabon and heirs of Piraso.
The CA has dismissed the petition due to myriad of infirmities suffered by the petition. The petitioner then elevated the case to the SC, which reversed the CA decision.
Aside from declaring the CALTs as null and void, the SC also ruled the NCIP has no authority to issue these CALTs in Baguio City.
To date, despite the SC decision, none of the CALTs involved are canceled by ROD Baguio because there is no court order issued and received at the ROD to cancel said documents.
There is no rule or provision of law, or jurisprudence, to the effect that a SC decision in civil cases shall be executed or implemented after issuance by the SC Clerk of Court of certificate of finality of the decision. A court order is a must.
The SC decision cannot come into effect, since the last paragraph of Section 1, Rule 39, of the Rules of Court provides: “The Appellate Court may, on motion in the same case, when the interest of justice so requires, direct the court of origin to issue the writ of execution. (As amended by Cir. No. 24-94.)”
The motion called for must be filed by the State if it finds, the “interest of justice so requires”. This case was filed during the term of the late President Benigno Aquino III, and the decision was promulgated during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
We pointed out, among others, in the petition of private respondents to Duterte for any help/assistance that “the anomalies ascribed to private respondents were committed at the NCIP office and the heirs have no part of it.”
CALTs to date are not canceled. In his lecture on enforcement of civil case, Justice Mar Del Castillo made a presentation to wit: “It is widely acclaimed that execution is the fruit of and end of the suit and aptly called the life of the law. A judgment, if left unexecuted, would be nothing but an empty victory for the prevailing party”.
The new charter of Baguio as embodied under Republic Act 11689 likewise aptly provides additional protection to indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities’ rights. Section 54 thereof explicitly provides:
“RA 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, shall in so far as applicable, continue to govern claims related to ancestral lands and domains in the City of Baguio’’.
Unless the above provision of law is invalidated, execution or implementation of the SC decision is farfetched.
Our Constitution also provides: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law”.
Holders/owners of the CALTs are almost totally excluded from the use of their ancestral land properties.
The punong barangay lords over almost every business opportunity within the ancestral land properties of the heirs of J.M. Abanag and Mercedes A. Tabon. He operates his private parking space without the heirs’ consent courtesy of a department head of a government office.
In addition, two city projects awarded to a private contractor already started ground preparations. Our efforts to bring all the above concerns/complaints, pointing out the Rules of Court and jurisprudence above submitted landed into deaf ears.
It appears to us, there is secrecy in the two projects that even members of the sangguniang panlungsod have no copy of the contract covering the projects.
The City Legal Office and the City Environment and Parks Management Office are curiously behind the pronouncements that the ancestral lands subject of the SC belong to the City of Baguio.
No proof though of proclamation, document, or approved land survey of the alleged Wright Park in the name of the city appears to exist.
The latest was a verbal statement from a CLO personnel that the property in question were lately land surveyed for Baguio City.
We shall hold on to this stand that public funds cannot be disbursed on projects implemented on private properties against the owners’ consent.
Violation of laws and/or rights of any person are predicates of graft and corruption. — ATTY. MANUEL C. CUILAN, FCBCO-IPO chairperson