Vallejo tenants face eviction

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Friday, January 10, 2014


THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and tenants of historic Casa Vallejo were recently caught off-guard by the recent Writ of Possession issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in favor of ancestral land claimants.

In a press conference held at Casa Vallejo, Friday, the DENR’s National Resources Development Corporation lawyer Felix Mariñas said they were caught unaware that, during the holidays, the NCIP, through its regional hearing officer Richard Cawas, ruled in favor of the heirs of Cosen Piraso who are claiming the property. A notice to vacate was also issued by the City Sheriff giving the claimants rights to evict existing tenants in the property.

Among the tenants in the city’s oldest existing structure include a hotel, a fine dining restaurant, the country’s first Cinematheque, among other businesses.

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The ancestral land title was issued December 8, 2010 and is subdivided into different titles which cover the span of Baguio’s government center.

According to Mariñas, the issuance of titles by the NCIP is irregular and unlawful as the DENR, particularly its NRDC, which leases out the property to tenants, was kept in the dark regarding this ruling. They were also not made party to the case which the claimants filed.

Mariñas stressed the proper procedure of land registration is coursed through the DENR. He added in a communication to the NCIP inquiring about the status of their property, they were told by the agency, which is under the Office of the President, processing of titles have not taken place.

DENR incoming regional director Paquito Moreno said Secretary Ramon Paje was also surprised with the recent move of the NCIP adding there is an existing agreement between the DENR, NCIP and the Department of Agrarian Reform to dismiss or at least scrutinize titles issued in contentious areas.

The counsels of Casa Vallejo tenants, meanwhile, filed a motion for reconsideration on their case but the NCIP denied this.

Meanwhile, lawyer Isagani Liporada of the City Legal Office said while the city recognizes legitimate claims of the IPs, it continues to oppose issuance of titles in contentious areas which include forest reservations and areas occupied by national line agencies in accordance with Section 78 of the IPRA.

Liporada said the city now wants to file for a declaratory relief of these contentious areas with questionable ancestral land claims based on IPRA’s Section 78 adding the stand of the city that this particular provision applies to all.

The city government has been expressing its contention not only on alleged spurious titles issued in Forbes Park, Botanical Garden, Busol watershed and other properties currently occupied by national line agencies such as those within Wright Park and Mansion House, Baguio Dairy Farm, among others.

He said the city remains serious in its drive against hundreds of pending cases on alleged spurious ancestral land claims, the main reason why the local government informed the Baguio-Boracay Task Force that ancestral land claims in several public lands is one of the biggest problems faced by the city today.

But amidst all these misunderstandings which the group claims is caused by the NCIP, they are still opening channels of communication with the indigenous people’s commission in hopes the agency will recognize and reconsider their plight.

Mariñas added they still have several legal remedies and strategies in mind to fight the case in the Supreme Court if only to protect Casa Vallejo, a heritage site and ever enduring structure in Baguio City.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 11, 2014.

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