The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples- Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) will formulate special guidelines for the resumption of issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs) and Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) in the city. This was revealed by NCIPCAR lawyers Arthur Herman and Severino Lumiqued to the Baguio City Council during a forum last November 14.
These special guidelines, according to the lawyers, will spell out the “other processes” that were neither elaborated by Section 78 of Republic Act No. 8371 otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
Acts of 1997 nor by the Supreme Court. Section 78 (Special Provision) of RA 8371 states that “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.”
The aforementioned provision, however, added 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: Provided, further, that this provision shall not apply to any territory which becomes part of the City of
Baguio after the effectivity of this Act.” In its 2019 decision (G.R. No. 208480), the Supreme Court stated that the NCIP does not have any legal power to reclassify lands that were previously included as part of
the Baguio Townsite Reservation before the enactment of RA 8371 as such power is vested in the congress and can only be exercised by the congress through a new law.
The said SC decision 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 finalized on February 24, 2020. Herman stressed the NCIPCAR, being mindful of the SC ruling, could no longer issue CALTs and CADTs in the city with the exemption of prior land rights covered by administrative and judicial processes as mentioned in Section 78 of RA 8371.
To remedy this, he claimed there is a need to formulate special guidelines to define the parameters of these “other processes” mentioned in Section 78 of RA 8371 which some of these ancestral land claims may fall under. “By the first quarter of next year, the NCIP may start processing CALT applications in the city using these guidelines. However, once processed, these applications will still have to be approved by
the Commission En Banc in the central office,” he claimed.
The special guidelines, he announced, may cover the Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (CALCs) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 1990 and 1993. A CALC refers to the certificate issued by the DENR recognizing the claims of Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands. He said there are at least 147 existing CALCs in the city, but there are no records showing how many of this number had been converted into CALTs.
He added that, all in all, the NCIP was able to approve 192 CALTs out of 757 applications in the city that had been turned over by the DENR. Also approved by the NCIP was the Certificate of Ancestral Domain
Title (CADT) covering the Happy Hollow Ancestral Domain. In the formulation of the special guidelines, he said the NCIP-CAR will also look into all survey plans approved by the DENR as parts of these survey plans may be covered by ancestral land claims.
He said there are a number of cases on ancestral land claims in the city that are still pending before the SC. Furthermore, he recalled that there were 58 “Igorot” claims that went through administrative processes under the administration of former President Corazon Aquino and that additional 277 “Igorot” claims were recognized under the administration of former President Ramon Magsaysay, he stated. The matter was referred to the city council’s Committee on Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Cultural Communities for any possible legislative action.
SP/Jordan G. Habbiling