RTC upholds non-issuance of TRO on Bibak lot demolition

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 in Baguio City upheld its decision refusing to grant a temporary restraining order to stop the City Government from demolishing structures at the government-owned Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (Bibak) lot along Harrison Road.

In a decision dated October 22, RTC Branch 5 presiding judge Maria Ligaya Itliong-Rivera said the lot occupant plaintiffs relied on one sole ground -- the “no relocation, no demolition” pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte -- in assailing the court’s earlier denial of their motion for TRO dated September 9, 2016.

“It is to be stressed that (they) relied on the only ground they raised when they sought for the issuance of a TRO for the second time in these cases. Again, the Court, on like reason, finds no cogent and compelling reason to deviate from its earlier ruling,” the court said.

The occupants filed a motion for TRO to stop the City from implementing the demolition supposedly on September 13-16 as ordered by Mayor Mauricio Domogan.

On September 9, the court denied the motion, citing earlier rulings the claimants have no right over the lot and thus over the structures they built on the area because they do not own the lot and their buildings were not authorized by the owner of the lot.

Acting assistant city legal officer Hannah Calitong said the latest court order “again confirmed the legality and propriety of the implementation of Demolition Order No. 24 series of 2015 directing the clearing of the so-called Bibak lot.”

City legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes earlier told city department head that there is no more legal impediment for the city to pursue the demolition of structures on said lots despite questions from the Philippine Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP).

Agreeing to this, city administrator and city anti-squatting committee chair Carlos Canilao said they will prepare for the implementation of the demolition order and will call the stakeholders for a meeting to prepare the requirements on budget, manpower and equipment.

Canilao said the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) offered to help the City by volunteering their personnel and committing fund augmentation to undertake the demolition.

The City will also enlist the help of the BCPO and the military reservists for the task.

The demolition scheduled last September was put on hold after the new administration of the NCIP intervened anew informing of the Duterte administration’s policies on demolition.

Domogan immediately appraised PCUP officer-in-charge Dr. Melissa Aradanas on the status of the lot and the circumstances that led to the city government’s action.

The mayor said the move is backed by ample investigations that proved that the occupants of the structures do not have building permits and that they are not members of the urban poor and are using their structures for business purposes without care for sanitation and order.

The clearing of the area is also sanctioned by the Regional Development Council-Cordillera Administrative Region (RDC-CAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera that said the “petitioners occupation has no legal basis and neither can they qualify as beneficiaries under (Republic Act) 10023 (Act Authorizing the Issuance of Free Patents to Residential Lands) because the lot is not alienable and disposable."

Last year, the PCUP under the old administration also asked the city to defer the dismantling operation pointing out the need to observe proper procedures and to ensure that the rights of the owners will not be violated.

But succeeding investigations by the PCUP proved the city’s cause. (Aileen Refuerzo/PIO)
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