April 20, 2024

The municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet has reiterated the Puguis communal forest reserve does not belong to any individual but to the whole community.
This claim was backed by a Supreme Court resolution issued March 16 when it denied the petition for review on certiorari filed by the heirs of Evaristo Tiotioen, who assailed the decision of the Court of Appeals on April 30, 2018.
Councilor Bartolome Baldas, Jr., former municipal legal officer, said the recent decision puts an end to the decades-old battle of the claimants with the municipality as regards to the portions of the communal forest.
“This decision proves that the Puguis communal forest is owned by the people of La Trinidad,” Baldas said.
The CA’s 2018 decision denied the application of the heirs of Tiotioen for registration of their supposed land title covering portions of the forest reserve.
The disputed area involves two parcels of land located at Pico, La Trinidad within Lot 1 PSU-230646 covering 123,935 square meters and Lot 2 PSU-230646 with 56,553 square meters or totaling to 18 hectares.
The CA reversed the Aug. 30, 2001 decision of Benguet Regional Trial Court Branch 63 granting the application for registration of land titles filed by the late Evaristo Tiotioen.
The CA found no sufficient basis to grant the registration of the properties in favor of the heirs of Tiotioen “for their failure to prove that their possession of the properties in the concept of an owner dated back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, and that the properties are alienable and disposable”.
The CA said the properties cannot be acquired by prescription under Section 14 (2) of P.D. 1529, or the Property Registration Decree.
Section 14 (2) provides that only private properties may be acquired through prescription and the following must be proved: the property has been classified as agricultural land, has been declared alienable and disposable and there is an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial, or is no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth.
“Absent sufficient evidence as to the alienable and disposable character of the land applied for registration, petitioners’ possession of the same, no matter how long, cannot ripen into a registrable title,” the SC resolution reads.
The SC resolution was received by the local government of La Trinidad last Sept. 22. – Ofelia C. Empian