Status quo on Vallejo ordered

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


CASA Vallejo’s fate is safe, at least for now.

This after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) commission en banc issued a status quo order Tuesday morning delaying the writ of possession earlier issued by the agency’s Regional Hearing Officer so as not to complicate another case pending before the Supreme Court and also of a congressional inquiry initiated by Representative Nicasio Aliping Jr.

The order, issued by lawyer Leonor Oralde-Quintayo, NCIP chairperson, states the commission en banc “deems it prudent to refrain from taking further action that would be preemptive to these cases and/or inquiry.”

All parties were also enjoined by the NCIP to refrain from taking actions that will exacerbate the present situation.

NCIP Assisting-Regional Hearing officer Richard Cawas, who earlier issued the writ of possession in favor of an Ibaloi family, issued a certification January 13 saying the case involves a matter of national significance elevating the case to the commission en banc for proper disposition.

The certification was addressed to petitioners, the heirs of Cosen Piraso represented by Richard Acop, and respondents Roebling Hotel, Inc., which runs the present Casa Vallejo Hotel and copy furnished the NRDC and lawyers of tenants of the building.

Concerned residents who conducted a sit-down protest Tuesday rejoiced upon hearing the order brought out by Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ National Resources Development Corporation (NRDC) president Felix Mariñas assuring tenants and residents the planned demolition of the historic building allegedly to give way to a condominium building by a Filipino-Japanese firm will not be carried out due to the order.

NCIP Regional Director Amador Batay-an said the regional office is taking its hands off the case as a result of the order. The commission en banc is now tasked to handle the case of Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) issued on the 2,160 square meter property.

Mariñas maintained the CALT and the writ of possession is questionable stressing the NCIP acknowledged “there was patent grave abuse of the process in this instance and it would put everyone in a bad situation.”

“We have already received reports that Casa Vallejo will be torn down and demolished and that is really the reason why NRDC was asked to manage this building in the first place because the structure needs to be rehabilitated, restored and preserved for all its historical significance to the city,” he said.

The NRDC president said ancestral land claimants wanting to override the status quo order will have to go through the commission en banc stating that the regional hearing officer has divested the authority to decide to the higher body.

He said they will continue monitoring the case for the nullification of the CALT now pending before the Supreme Court filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.

“It is in the Supreme Court where the actual battle must take place, because eventually the Supreme Court as the final arbiter will eventually decide if these CALTs are nullified or maintained,” he stressed.

The NRDC, he added, will continue coordinating and helping strengthen the case against CALT holders by coordinating at the department level their future action.

Meantime, a resolution authored by Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda urging President Benigno Aquino III to declare casa Vallejo as a heritage site is now pending before the City Council’s Committee on Education, Culture and Historical Research.

But the committee’s chairman Councilor Peter Fianza said the controversial measure needs further study adding a better move for petitioners is for the resolution of the ownership of the lot and existing structure rather than declaring the site as part of Baguio’s cultural heritage.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 16.

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