Buyers of IP lots face lawsuits, title loss
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Holders of ancestral land titles here, who do not belong to any indigenous community, are now facing lawsuits seeking to nullify their ownership of lots that are supposedly exclusive for indigenous peoples (IPs).
Mayor Mauricio Domogan on Monday said the city legal office had compiled documents on “derivative titles” of Certificates of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) covering Baguio’s parks.
These would be sent to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which had petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify CALT that encroached into, or have taken over, parks, government reservations and a section of the presidential Mansion here.
Derivative titles are those covering portions of ancestral land that were sold and registered separately as private lots, Domogan said.
Original titles lost
He said some CALT, which the city government had opposed, have been voided after the agency that issued them declared the loss of original land title forms that authenticated the CALT.
Because the ancestral land title forms (ALT forms) no longer exist, the CALT that were subsequently released had been canceled, according to an Oct. 8 en banc resolution of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
“We have been warning people not to buy lands bearing anomalous titles,” said the mayor.
He added that lawsuits from title-holders are expected but that he hoped the OSG “can address this.”
He said the NCIP resolution would help the government’s petition to nullify the titles.
The voided CALT belonged to the heirs of Josephine Abanag and Mercedes Tabon, Cosen Piraso and Lauro Carantes.
At a Nov. 29 gathering, Ibaloy elders offered to mediate the conflict.
Roger Sinot, chair of a nine-member council of elders, said representatives of Ibaloy families here agreed to submit to traditional arbitration processes and relieve the courts of overlapping property lawsuits.
But none of the families, who lost their CALT, had approached the council of elders as of Thursday, Sinot said.
“People do not realize many of these families asserting their indigenous peoples rights have been losing money to lawyers, the courts and, occasionally, to opportunists,” he said.
“Some families have sued their own relatives when the CALT were sold, but we offer to mediate so they can settle these matters as relatives,” he added.
The NCIP said the voided CALT did not prevent the families from reapplying for titles provided their claims to ancestral lands are genuine.
During the Ibaloy assembly last month, former NCIP chair Zenaida Hamada-Pawid, who serves as commissioner in the Cordillera region, told the families that the agency wanted the CALT and the Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) “to have integrity so these would stand in court.”
This is the reason NCIP has been reviewing and correcting CALT issued before President Aquino assumed office in 2010, Pawid said. She said CALT applicants must pursue their ancestral land claims in good faith.
Some claimants, she said, may find their title applications junked should NCIP discover they had sold their ancestral lands while they process their CALT applications.
She also asked the families to heed city government rules.
“When you build a house [on your ancestral lands], you must secure a building permit. If you cut a tree, you must secure a tree-cutting permit,” she said.
The 1987 Constitution and Republic Act No. 8371 (the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997) recognize that indigenous Filipinos own ancestral lands on which their families have lived “since time immemorial.”
But the application of these rights becomes complicated in places where indigenous peoples were displaced or dislocated, such as cattle lands that became part of Baguio City when it was built by the American colonial government, according to studies and documents. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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