A Baguio businesswoman recently issue eviction letters to the Philippine Information Agency and the People’s Television Network (PTV 4); government organizations located in the compound of the presidential Mansion in Baguio City.
The businesswoman – who is represented by lawyer Jose Olarte, Jr. – claims to be one of the buyers of a titled ancestral land which occupies a parcel of the President’s summer home, as well as a portion of the city’s popular Wright Park.
As part of her demands, the businesswoman called for the Cordillera offices of these agencies to tear down a PTV 4 station currently under construction in the area, because it encroached on her property.
Both government agencies operate from what was once known as the Cordillera House in the Mansion reservation; an area which was given a certificate of ancestral land title (CALT) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The title was issued to the heirs of Josephine Abanag and Mercedes Tabon in 2010.
The Baguio City government, however, says that the CALT given to Abanag – as well as those given to four other Baguio-Ibaloy families – was issued erroneously. As such, city officials have called for the nullification of these titles.
Under Republic Act (RA) No. 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (Ipra), CALTs are granted to indigenous Filipinos with ties to properties since the time of their ancestors. Properties classified as having a CALT status may be transferred to members of the same indigenous community or a family member, “subject to customary laws and traditions of the community concerned.”
However, Olarte says documents prove that in 2013, the Abanag title was listed as a private title by the Baguio Register of Deeds. Furthermore, 1,034 square meters of the property had been purchased by Olarte’s client.
Local authorities are incensed by the practice of selling properties classified as CALT to buyers outside of the title holder’s tribe or family; but a stipulation in the Ipra apparently permits such practice.
In August 2014, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima stated in a correspondence with Commissioner Antonio Bernardo, chief executive officer of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, that the Ipra allows ancestral lands to be sold to buyers outside of the indigenous communities for as long as these parcels of land have been registered as private titles.