June 22, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The city council of Baguio has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the operation of the Bagong Lahing Pilipino Cooperative (BLP) and BLP Development Foundation Inc. which are recruiting members by promising to assist them to acquire land titles through “judicial documents”.

In the inquiry of the city council on Feb. 12, a certain Dr. Jovito Salonga, who represented himself as the vice president of the cooperative, gave answers that are absurd and inconsistent with laws regarding the acquisition of lands in the country.

Asked by the council members about how the BLP is able to supposedly issue titles to its members, Salonga said BLP assists its members to perfect their occupation of a lot by issuing them judicial documents.

Documents submitted by Salonga also showed the supposed title to the property of one Don Domingo de Ocampo is a piece of paper that does not even bear the signature of the Registry of Deeds of Baguio.

The council further pointed out judicial titles cannot be issued in Baguio because of its classification as a townsite reservation.

The council said disposal of lands in the Baguio townsite reservation may only be through miscellaneous sales application, townsite sales application, ancestral land, and free patent.

Salonga also failed to answer where in Baguio the properties BLP is giving to its members.

During the inquiry, Barangay St. Joseph was mentioned as one of the sites being offered but according to Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, the area is a reservation of the Philippine Army. 

Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr., a geodetic engineer by profession, added the area cannot be plotted if a relocation survey were conducted.

“Kahit sinong surveyor ang sasabihin sa inyo hindi ito mare-relocate dahil ‘floating’,” Cosalan said.

With indications that BLP’s operations are dubious, the city council advised members of the cooperative who attended the session of the city council to be cautious about their transactions with the BLP.

The city council said other than the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, BLP has no authority to issue titles.

Tabanda has advised the members to consult a lawyer and agencies such as the DENR to assist them if they wish the properties they are occupying be issued titles. She said they need not join an organization if they have a property they want titled.

“Estafa ito. Kung talagang genuine ang document n’yo, the Registry of Deeds should have signed it, not your boss. You are misleading people that these documents are a title even if it is not. Ang mga papeles na ito ginagamit n’yo para mang-engganyo ng tao pero sa bandang huli, wala kayong maibigay na titulo. No matter your explanation, it is unacceptable. This is machination,” Olowan told Salonga.

The council also advised the BLP not to use the name of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to recruit members.

After investigation, the city council asked the NBI to file charges against BLP; for the NCIP and DENR to conduct its own investigation to protect the public; and also tasked the City Public Information Office to write news releases about fraudulent land transactions.