THE City of Baguio will pursue the demolition of the illegal structures at the Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (Bibak) lot along Harrison Road as soon as the legal issues have been settled.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the city may have won the first round in the court battle after getting a favorable decision from the Regional Trial Court over the cases filed by 50 owners of the illegal structures to stop the demolition but it does not mean the end of the struggle as the petitioners filed for a motion for reconsideration of the court’s decision.
“We will wait for the right time to implement the demolition order. The law has to take its course,” the mayor said.
The RTC Branch 5 under Presiding Judge Maria Ligaya Itliong-Rivera recently junked the petition for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the demolition of their structures at the government property.
The court cited the position of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Cordillera officer-in-charge regional director Paquito Moreno that the “petitioners occupation has no legal basis and neither can they qualify as beneficiaries under (Republic Act) No. 10023 (Act Authorizing the Issuance of Free Patents to Residential Lands) because the lot is not alienable and disposable. Thus the possession of the petitioners, no matter how long, could never ripen into ownership or possessory right.”
“Given the foregoing, the Court finds that petitioners are not entitled to the issuance of an injunctive writ because they have no right to the property on which their structures stand,” the court said.
The city had set the demolition of 58 illegal structures from August 11-14 after the occupants refused to voluntarily vacate the area which the city said was segregated from Original Certificate Title No. 01 in favor of the Bibak Dormitories Inc. in 1961 and thus “was slated to cater to the housing needs of the students coming from the Bibak areas.”
The occupants claimed that they are members of the marginalized sector and have been occupying the BIBAK compound since 1982 and thus are qualified to stay in the area or be granted relocation privileges under Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.
The city maintained present occupants are private individuals who entered the property without permission and are now utilizing the area for profit. Their structures were also not covered by building permits.
Baguio’s bid to clear the lot measuring about 5,000 square meters was supported by the former leaders of the Bibak Student Dormitories Inc., the Regional Development Council and the DENR Cordillera.
In 2014, Moreno supported the city’s demolition plan in the area as he turned down the petition of the OCT No. 1 settlers to own the lots they are occupying.
Moreno said the DENR being the administrator of the lots under OCT 1 has advocated of the “best use” of the property and a demolition to be executed by the city mayor’s office will help the department enforce its mandate.
“Sadly, the occupation of the land by the petitioners is bereft of any legal basis and thus, can never ripen into ownership or possessory right. They cannot be qualified beneficiaries... since the subject lot is not alienable and disposable land. We therefore reiterate that clearing of the area of informal settlers is prioritized and we solicit the occupants’ cooperation in making it a peaceful and orderly proceeding,” Moreno said. (AR)