PMA to evict dwellers, war vets from military lands
BAGUIO CITY—The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is asking local courts to evict settlers inside the city’s military reservations, including World War II veterans who put up their headquarters on titled military property, one of its officials informed the city council this week.
PMA had directed the veterans and their representatives to vacate the building inside Camp Henry T. Allen that houses the offices and memorabilia of the Baguio-Benguet chapter of the United States Army Forces in the Philippines Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL). The camp hosts the PMA bunkhouses of soldiers but has also been home to retired PMA employees and their family members.
The eviction notice, which lapsed in October, was one of PMA’s administrative remedies before filing a civil suit in court, according to Army Lt. Col. Julesther Cañada, PMA real estate officer.
“Please don’t take these [actions] against us,” he added after explaining that all “unauthorized occupants” of lands under PMA’s custody would be brought to court based on the instructions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense (DND).
The DND ordered the recovery of all military property to aid in the government’s military modernization program, he said.
PMA is the administrator of the 373-hectare Fort del Pilar that hosts the premiere military school, the 29-ha Navy Base which is part of Barangay St. Joseph (with a population of 3,951 as of the 2020 census), and the 14.3-ha Camp Allen across City Hall which also has a barangay (with a population of 2,330) and was where PMA used to be located.
PMA will leave it up to the courts to determine if settlements inside military properties are entitled to remain there, Cañada said.
The USAFIP-NL case is being reviewed by the Office of the Solicitor General, he told the council.
“Who will they sue? Our dead heroes?” asked lawyer Estrella Bacoling Gaab, chair of the USAFIP-NL Baguio-Benguet chapter.
She and the group, Sons and Daughters of the USAFIP-NL, have been handling day-to-day tasks on behalf of the remaining five living veterans of the Igorot Infantry (66th Infantry Battalion) who fought to liberate the country from the Japanese at the end of World War II.
The local chapter is led by veterans Garcia Wakit (as chapter commander) and Mateo Nakian (vice commander). The widows and children have leased parts of the building to continue financing veteran benefits, Gaab said. The structure is also being used by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.
Camp Allen, Cañada said, is made up of lots originally titled in the name of the military’s predecessor, the Philippine Constabulary (Transfer Certificate of Title No. 1390 issued in 1931 after it was sold by the Baguio City government), and an area identified by Proclamation No. 254 which was issued in 1929.
USAFIP-NL was granted a portion of Camp Allen through Proclamation No. 424, but the USAFIP-NL Baguio-Benguet chapter put up its current building within TCT 1390, he said. Technically, the 3,000-square-meter allotment in Proclamation 424 was intended for the whole USAFIP-NL which included World War II veterans from Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Benguet and Mountain Province, Cañada said.
A resolution filed by Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda would recognize the USAFIP-NL building as a heritage structure to spare it from being demolished.
Cañada said he could not provide details when Councilors Peter Fianza and Jose Molintas pressed for details as to how PMA intended to use the recovered lands.