Baguio Ibaloys oppose NCIP plan to halt land titling

Baguio Ibaloys oppose NCIP plan to halt land titling

/ 05:04 AM March 08, 2024

Ibaloy Day parade

ORIGINAL SETTLERS Baguio Ibaloys are descendants of the city’s original settlers. Shown here during the Ibaloy Day parade on Feb. 23, members of the city’s indigenous peoples groups are facing the possibility that their land rights will no longer be honored because of several Supreme Court decisions. —NEIL CLARK ONGCHANGCO

BAGUIO CITY — Ibaloys here are opposing a proposal being discussed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to freeze all ancestral land titling in the city due to a succession of Supreme Court decisions asserting that the agency has no jurisdiction in Baguio.

On Thursday, Ibaloy clans gathered at an NCIP dialogue organized by NCIP Commissioner Gaspar Cayat because of a suggested moratorium covering all applications for Certificates of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) and Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) within the Baguio townsite reservation.


Cayat said the NCIP commissioners sitting en banc on Feb. 28 discussed the future of Ibaloy ancestral land rights in the city because of three high court rulings issued on Sept. 25, 2019 (penned by retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio Jr.); on April 26, 2023 (penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen); and on July 11, 2023 (also penned by Leonen), that said Baguio is excluded from the coverage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (Republic Act No. 8371 or Ipra).


READ: NCIP secures Ibaloy lands vs legal threats

All three decisions cited Section 78, a special provision that states: “The City of Baguio shall remain to be governed by its Charter and all lands proclaimed as part of its townsite reservation shall remain as such until otherwise reclassified by appropriate legislation: Provided, That prior land rights and titles recognized and/or acquired through any judicial, administrative or other processes before the effectivity of this Act shall remain valid … ”Leonen, in the July decision, said that Ipra “exempts Baguio City from its coverage [because] the text of Section 78 is categorical that Baguio City is governed by its own charter [and] Thus, no ancestral title under [Ipra] may be issued in favor of claimants within Baguio City.”

Cayat, who represents the Cordillera in the NCIP, said he objected when a commissioner discussed closing the NCIP Baguio office because the Supreme Court decisions meant things had become hopeless for Baguio land claims.

Historical evidence

“There is historical evidence that Ibaloys settled here before colonization,” he said, noting that this convinced the NCIP to table the moratorium option.

Some Ibaloy lawyers, like Councilor Jose Molintas, have considered going to Congress to remove Ipra’s Section 78.

In a separate interview on Thursday, Molintas said Baguio officials could also go to the high court to question the constitutionality of this provision, because “Section 78 discriminates against the original people of Baguio.”


In the July ruling, the high court stressed that Ibaloy land rights are still protected by the Native Title Doctrine that was established by the United States Supreme Court in 1909.

The SC was referring to the US high court’s landmark recognition of the land rights of Ibaloy clan leader Mateo Cariño over what is now Camp John Hay—legitimizing “ownership of land occupied and possessed since time immemorial.” The doctrine is one of the foundations of Ipra and the 1987 constitutional protections granted to indigenous peoples.

Military reservations

In a position paper, Ruby Giron, one of Cariño’s grandchildren, stressed that many Baguio Ibaloy ancestral lands are actually located within civil and military reservations which are technically outside the Baguio townsite and are therefore beyond the coverage of Section 78.

The NCIP Baguio office can determine which ancestral lands are outside the townsite so these can be processed and granted CALTs, Giron said at the dialogue.

“The original charter of Baguio City covers 48 square kilometers. In 1922, the city expanded its coverage to 57 sq km, [incorporating portions of] Tuba town in Benguet province where Ibaloys also have ancestral lands,” Giron said.

According to her, Baguio Ibaloys first opposed Section 78 when it was included as Section 84 of House Bill (HB) No. 9125 on Sept. 30, 1997. Their position paper at the time said Baguio’s exclusion from Ipra was unconstitutional and would be “discriminatory against the Ibaloys.”

Baguio’s exemption “goes against the intent of the law that was being enacted,” and “was never part of a discussion and consultations conducted on the Ipra bill, in both Senate Bill No. 1728 and HB 033, 1016, 1050, 8123 which preceded HB 9125,” according to the position paper signed by eight Ibaloy leaders, including Giron and former Tuba Mayor Jose Baluda, who attended the dialogue.

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“Why the rush to stop the processing of ancestral lands in Baguio? For whom was NCIP created and Ipra passed? Has NCIP outgrown its mandate to serve and protect the rights of indigenous peoples as enunciated in the Constitution and Ipra? Should it be abolished for being irrelevant?” Giron asked.

TAGS: Baguio, Ibaloys, Land titling, NCIP

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