February 3, 2023

Thirteen structures were demolished inside the Puguis communal forest last week by the joint forces of the local government unit, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and other agencies. 
The demolition took place after the Benguet Regional Trial Court Judge Jeorge Manois Jr. denied the application of injunction filed by the heirs of Tiotioen, claimants of the communal forest.
Manois, in his order, said the claimants have no enough proof to “show in the application there is meritorious ground for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction in its favor.”
“The plaintiffs have also inadequately proven that have a clear legal right to build the structures. A clear legal right is one founded in or granted by law, or is enforceable as a matter of right. In the hearings conducted before this court on the issuance of the writ, plaintiffs had yet to establish that clear legal rightto the satisfaction of this court,” he stated.
In 2019, Mayor Romeo Salda issues several demolition orders for the removal of the structures owned by claimants Pedro Isican, heirs of Tiotioen, among others within the communal forest. 
A hundred police personnel, scattered in the communal forest, also helped pacify the adamant claimants, some stood their ground while others voluntarily dismantled their shanties with the help of the authorities, during the one-day implementation of the order.
Municipal Legal Officer Bartolome Baldas maintained there is no court order that reconsiders the denial of the claimants’ temporary restraining orders.
Baldas said the claimants filed a motion for reconsideration in the court, however he said there is no advice yet when it will be heard.
The structures demolished in the area include residential houses, pigsty, animal pens, tombs, and shanties, among other structures that were illegally built inside the communal forests.
Earlier, the Court of Appeals granted the appeal of the municipality of La Trinidad on the earlier decision made by the Benguet RTC Branch 63 granting the application for registration of land title filed by the late Evaristo Tiotioen.
The CA decision released on April 30, 2018 denied the application of the heirs of Tiotioen for the application for registration of their land title. The disputed area involves two parcels of land located at Pico, La Trinidad within Lot 1 PSU-230646 containing 123,935 square meters and Lot 2 PSU-230646 with 56,553 square meters or totaling to 18 hectares.
The decision noted the appeal of the municipal government is meritorious, adding that the application by Evaristo Tiotioen before the RTC “reveals that he failed to indicate the exact legal basis of his request.”
The decision stated that the CA finds 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 12 June 1945 or earlier, and that the properties are alienable and disposable,” it stated. 
The late Tiotioen has claimed that he inherited the said parcels of land.
He claimed that he has been in actual, open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation in the concept of an owner for the last 50 years when he filed for application for judicial confirmation and registration of the land title on Oct. 13, 1973. – Ofelia C. Empian