SC finalizes annulment of CALTS covering Baguio prime lots

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The nullification of the Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs) and derivative titles covering prime lots in the city that include the Casa Vallejo property along Upper Session Road, Pacdal Circle, Wright Park and the city government’s titled property in Lualhati barangay has been finalized as the Supreme Court issued an entry of judgment on the case docketed as General Register No. 208480.

The case entitled “Republic of the Philippines vs. National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Register of Deeds Baguio City, Land Registration Authority, Heirs of Cosen Piraso represented by Richard Acop, Heirs of Josephine Molintas Abanag represented by Isaias M. Abanag, Marion T. Pool, Joan L. Gorio and Virginia C. Gao-an” was decided on by the High Tribunal on Sept. 25, 2019.

A copy of the entry of judgment was received by the City Legal Office as furnished by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

Lawyer IV Isagani Liporada of the City Legal Office said that with the decision, the city under Mayor Benjamin Magalong will ask the OSG to issue an authority for them to have this entry of judgment annotated on the subject titles mentioned to forewarn people of the status of the property that they are not anymore covered by these voided CALTs.

In the Supreme Court decision dated Sept. 25, 2019,then Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio granted the OSG petition for review and reversed the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals dated January 15, 2013 that upheld the validity of the subject CALTs.

The High Tribunal also declared as “null and void” the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Resolution Nos. 107-2010-AL and 108-2010-AL that paved the way for the issuance of the titles; O-CALT Nos. 129 and 130 including corresponding Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. and CALT Nos. covering 36 parcels of lot.

It was a protracted battle to reclaim the lots which started at the time of former mayor Mauricio Domogan in 2009 when the city sought the annulment of said CALTs along with others issued covering the claims at South Drive, Green Valley and at the Loakan Airport maintaining that the lots are within forest and park reservations and therefore inalienable.

In annulling the CALTs, the court ruled that the NCIP “has no legal authority to issue CALTs or CADTs (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles)” over said properties as townsite reservation areas in the city.

It said Baguio City is not covered by the Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act by virtue of Section 78 that provides that the city “shall remain to be governed by its Charter and all lands proclaimed as part of its townsite reservation shall remain as such until other reclassified by appropriate legislation.”

The court averred that the section provides exceptions particularly those “prior land rights and titles recognized and acquired through any judicial, administrative or other process before the effectivity of the IPRA and territories which became part of Baguio after the effectivity of the IPRA which is November, 1997.

However, the court ruled that the subject claims do not qualify under said exceptions citing antecedent facts and court decisions that proved that “respondents were not among the original and additional claimants” over subject properties.

“…The said lots in the present case were not shown to be part of any ancestral land prior to the effectivity of the IPRA.  To stress, private respondents’ rights over the subject properties… were never recognized in any administrative or judicial proceedings prior to the effectivity of the IPRA law,” the court said.

“The CALTs and CADTs issued by the NCIP to respondents are thus void.” – Aileen P. Refuerzo

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