February 7, 2023

It’s strange, not like a dream but demolitions during a crisis should be a no-no for humanitarian purposes, especially when people have the right to occupy and possess the lands where their buildings stand even if no title has been issued.
For academic discussion, a right, although contingent, remains to be a right and is therefore entitled to protection until final determination by the court.
Grave and irreparable damage would result if possessors are deprived of their right, rendering them homeless, exposing them to the pandemic, the cold and rainy days we now have.
To cast judgment on them and say, “Pumanaw kayo ditoy ta saan kayo met nga tagaditoy” or words to that effect is a nightmare for people to hear, especially because they are heirs of original settlers of Kafagway.
Demolishing their buildings at this time would be an additional burden to the city because as the settlers would be forced to find a new place to live, tendency is to squat in another area. Even DU30 for all his sins has a standing policy of “no demolition without relocation.”
Demolition should always be a final option and this should be only if the building owners have no means of being legalized through any process.
In the June 25, 2012 post in the official website of the City of Baguio, it said “summary demolition will be employed in illegal structures that have no means of being legalized through any process.”
Thus, if those subjects of demolition have a pending townsite sales application or ancestral land claim application with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, their house cannot be demolished.
It has always been our stand that the city government has no authority to issue a demolition order because there is no ordinance that empowers it to do so.
The reference of the City Buildings and Architecture Office in the case of Aquino v. Malay, Aklan is inapplicable because Baguio has no ordinance similar to that municipality. In addition, there must be a declaration by the CBAO that the building is dangerous, ruinous, or nuisance, pursuant to the New Civil Code on abatement of nuisance.
In Alangdeo v. City Mayor of Baguio, the Supreme Court enunciated that summary abatement against the bare absence of a building permit is not provided for in the National Building Code, rather administrative penalties should be imposed.
Our officials must have overlooked the fact that Ordinance 019 s. 2017 or the Magna Carta for Land Possessors in Baguio has set a moratorium on demolition of structures whose owners are in actual, physical, and notorious possession in the concept of an owner.
I was the author of that ordinance. Because of the special nature of lands in Baguio, a majority of its constituents have not been given the opportunity to own the lands they have constructed on under the present Torrens system.
As such, those in actual, physical, and notorious possession of public lands in the concept of an owner defined in the Civil Code can fight the threat of being declared illegal settlers, squatters, and violators of Presidential Decree 1096 as amended by the National Building Code.
This provision of the law hangs over their heads like the sword of Damocles because demolition has become a potent weapon to dispossess, harass or even grab possession and ownership over lands.
Said proviso applies to any individual who has been, or through his predecessor-in-interest, has been in actual, physical and notorious possession of public lands in the concept of an owner for 30 years or more, provided that a structure, as proposed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Executive Director Ralph C. Pablo in a letter dated July 24, 2017 has been built within said period and has declared the improvements thereon for taxation purposes with the Office of the City Assessor. It does not apply to those who built structures on titled properties, lands classified for mining, forest, timber and other lands not classified as alienable and disposable and those within road rights of way.
An applicant must “perfect” his claim, application and/or award into a “private right” or Torrens title within 10 years from issuance of status quo, otherwise demolition takes place.
Maybe the congressman can take the cudgels and file a bill amending the National Building Code to answer the woes of the people in Baguio, otherwise it becomes really surreal, and a bad dream for all. Sigh.

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