July 16, 2024

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Sugpon, Ilocos Sur over its boundary dispute with Bakun, Benguet covering a land area of 1,117.20 hectares.

In a decision penned by Justice Mario Lopez of the SC Third Division on April 20 but released Sept. 12, Bakun’s petition for review on certiorari lacks merit and the evidence presented by Sugpon has more weight over the disputed area.

The SC said Sugpon has proven through the administrative map of Benguet that the disputed area is beyond the territory of Benguet.

It was also supported by other documents such as Land Classification Maps 3441 and 1298, and the topographic and administrative map of Ilocos Sur, and a master list of tax declarations from the municipal assessor of Sugpon, among others.

Bakun, on the other hand, presented only five documents to prove its claim which “exercised some acts of dominion over the property, but do not prove that the modified boundary line covers the disputed areas.”

On May 12, 2014, the provincial boards of Ilocos Sur and Benguet, which were tasked to settle boundary disputes among municipalities, issued joint Resolution 1, s. 2014, adjudicating the disputed area to Bakun.

Sugpon appealed the resolution to the Ilocos Regional Trial Court Branch 25.

On April 28, 2015, the RTC reversed the joint resolution of the provincial boards. The court said Acts 1646 (An act establishing a new boundary line between the sub province of Amburayan and Ilocos Sur and La Union) and 2877 (An act to modify and establish the boundary line between the Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur and La Union), could not be the basis for Bakun to assert its claim because the two laws do not give specific delineation of the metes and bounds of the two municipalities.

The 2015 resolution stated that Sugpon presented maps which showed the disputed area was beyond the boundary of Benguet and inside the jurisdiction of Sugpon.

The RTC added the evidence presented by Sugpon has greater weight than that of Bakun.

Bakun filed a petition of the decision to the Court of Appeals.

But the CA, in a Feb. 2018 decision, upheld the RTC decision and on July 6, 2018 also denied Bakun’s motion for reconsideration, leading the petitioner to elevate the plea to the SC. 

Benguet Vice Governor Ericson Felipe said they respect the SC decision.

“We will respect the decision of the Supreme Court because it is the last bastion of justice. Unless we are allowed a remedy of appeal, but I doubt,” Felipe said.

Aside from the Bakun-Sugpon border row, Benguet and Ilocos Sur have two more boundary disputes in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and Mankayan, Benguet and Sugpon and Kibungan. 

Proceedings for both disputes are ongoing between the provinces. – Ofelia C. Empian