February 29, 2024

There is a need for government agencies to unify their policies with regards to lots covered by Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs).
The city council also resolved to come up with a clear-cut policy to ensure that CALT-covered lots are given the same regard as those covered by regular Torrens titles in city government processes like the issuance of business and building permits. 
This developed as the city council on Jan. 20 deliberated on the complaint of discrimination of one Trinidad Comia over having her business permit application denied by city government offices allegedly for being a CALT lot.
The discussion sparked a debate on how a CALT is to be treated in government processes and transactions after the representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the city government presented differing interpretations of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 and views on the issue.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan pointed out the need for the said agencies to confer to reconcile their policies and positions on CALT lots while NCIP representative lawyer Myra Kalang-ad agreed that a “leveling off” of the CALT issue is now a must with the agencies to give appropriate regard to CALTs and advance the interest of the indigenous peoples and fulfill the intent of the IPRA.
Kalang-ad rued that some agencies do not treat CALTs the same way as Torrens titles and that there were confusions on the provisions on the IPRA that result to discrimination against the IPs.
“Confusion should be stopped so that there will be continuous respect of CALTs that were issued and those that have not yet been transferred or CALTs that are pending,” she said. 
DPWH Cordillera representative lawyer Renato Bestre said the agency does not consider CALTs as patent so that CALT lots along road right of ways are subject to regular road clearing procedures. 
DENR-CAR lawyer Michael Jan Ostrea, for his part, said they have to make sure that CALT properties covered by proclamations as forest reserves have undergone regular procedures which are based on the provisions of the IPRA.
However, Kalang-ad said agencies should not confuse Section 56 of the IPRA, particularly the provision containing the basis of segregation of titled properties before the issuance of IPRA in 1997, with Section 78, a special provision of the IPRA which stipulates that Baguio City will continue to be governed by its charter provided that prior land rights will be recognized, which have prior recognition through administrative or quasi-judicial means.
City Legal Office representative Attorney IV Isagani Liporada shared the opinion that CALTs cannot have the same entitlements as Torrens titles as these are meant to have everlasting nature for cultural preservation and not for sale or transfer for commercial purposes.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda shared Liporada’s view, saying this was proven by the existence of a provision in the IPRA which gives claimants a choice whether to convert their titles to a CALT or to a Torrens title as confirmed by Kalang-ad.
Kalang-ad said unlike the option to convert to CALT, Torrens titling in the provision does not provide implementing rules and regulations so that the available options then was the CALT process.
She, however, contested the claim that CALTs cannot be transferred or converted into Torrens title saying it is creating confusion and hindering the Baguio IPs’ quest for self-determination and therefore results to injustice to them albeit she admitted that the issue on CALTs being sold or transferred for commercial purpose is a subject of deliberations by the Commission.
Tabanda said the city is cognizant and protective of the IP’s rights over their ancestral lands but under the law, these lands are supposed to be used for the community to preserve the culture.
“What if they sold it commercially which is what is happening now because some of those applying for government clearances now are not IP but are claiming to be given the rights of an IP and are crying out discrimination if they do not have their way,” she said.
Olowan, however, clarified that Liporada’s stand albeit supported by Mayor Benjamin Magalong does not reflect that of the entire city government and this will be clarified in another forum. 
The committee on laws was tasked to study all the facts presented and come up with recommendations on the CALT issues presented.
As to Comia’s complaint, City Planning and Development Coordinator Evelyn Cayat and Permits and Licensing Division Chief Allan Abayao said there was no discrimination in the denial of the business permit application and the action was on account that the area falls within the Bureau of Animal Industry property; it is within the road right-of-way of Marcos Highway; contradicts the usufruct agreement of the city with the Department of Agriculture and the subject of an ongoing case CALT case involving the heirs of Ikang Paus, which is now at the Supreme Court.
Abayao said the applicant failed to comply with the required building permit, zoning, fire, and environmental clearances.
Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. said his initial investigation showed the property to be within the Paus claim but outside the government proclamation.
The council resolved to advise Comia to elevate her complaint to the Ombudsman to resolve whether the subject employees committed abuse of authority.  – Aileen P. Refuerzo