Ibalois Face Eviction from Ancestral Lands in Camp John Hay

“I pleaded before her, saying ‘God gave this land for people to stay’ but she answered in English which I didn’t understand,” related Martha Dayog. Dayog is an Ibaloi, one of the residents of Happy Hollow and Liwanag, villages in Camp John Hay whose residents are being evicted. “Her” was Lyssa GS Pagano-Calde, legal counsel of JHMC. Dayog showed her documents, including a receipt dated October 15, 1949 issued by the Commonwealth of the Philippines to her father for real property taxes payment.

Northern Dispatch

Posted by Bulatlat.com

BAGUIO CITY — Using Presidential Decree 705 of The Philippine Forestry Code as basis, the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) issued a directive authorizing Scout Rangers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to demolish three houses in Barangay Happy Hollow and a shanty inside the Baguio Country Club last December, and a storehouse also in Happy Hollow last Jan. 10.

The demolition order covers 13 barangays affecting Ibalois and Kankanaeys, the tribal groups native to the area.

Ibaloi women

A Marcos decree, PD 705 prohibits habitation in areas 18 per cent in slope, making the entire Cordillera and other mountainous regions a public domain.

Camp John Hay residents petitioned the city council, which in turn called for a dialogue last Jan. 10. As a result, the city council held the demolitions in abeyance and called for the segregation of the 13 barangays.

“The segregation process for the delineation of built-up areas in the Camp John Hay Forest Reservation (CJH reservation) must be rushed so that actual occupants could do what they wished on their land,” said Baguio Councilor Jose Mencio Molintas who heads the city’s Committee on Human Rights, Justice, Public Protection and Safety, Peace and Order. He urged the people in the 13 barangays inside the reservation to organize as he asked that demolitions be held in abeyance in order not to pre-empt the city council’s efforts to delineate areas for release from the CJH reservation.

The reservation is a 273-hectare special economic zone estate awarded by virtue of Republic Act 7227 or the Bases Conversion Development Authority Act. The segregation of 13 barangays is one condition imposed by former Baguio officials when they endorsed the master development plan for CJH in 1996. Camp John Hay was a former rest and recreation area for US troops before being turned over to the Philippine government.

Molintas said in a committee consultation on Jan. 12 that while people living inside the Camp John Hay reservation maintain that the area is part of their ancestral domain, the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) thinks otherwise and is in fact asserting its control over the area.

Prior right

Nagpakpaka-asi ak kadakuada, ‘Inted ti Diyos a pagyanan ti tao ti daga,’ ngem sinungbatandak ti English a saan ko pulos a naawatan” (I pleaded before her saying “God gave this land for people to stay” but she answered in English which I didn’t understand), Martha Dayog told the city council during the citizens’ forum during the council’s session Jan. 10.

Dayog said that her ancestors have lived in the area for more than 100 years, even showing as proof to the JHMC authorities some documents that the Americans issued her father after the second world war. The documents included an original official receipt of the Commonwealth of the Philippines dated Oct. 15, 1949 when Bernal Tindaan, her deceased father, paid the commonwealth government treasury P518 apparently in fines and real property taxes.

“Saanda a binigbig dagiti dokumento” (She did not honor the documents) Dalog narrated. She said she could not read, write nor speak any language but Iloko and her native tongue Inibaloi. “Uray diak mabasa ti nakasurat iti dokumento, ammok a nagbaybayad kami ti buwis ti dagami” (Even if I could not read what was written in the documents, I know that we have been paying our taxes for our land), she opined.

Moratoriums on demolitions and constructions

In a dialogue with the concerned residents on Jan. 12, Molintas initiated a moratorium. Pagano-Calde and former Army Maj. George Demot , the Security Manager of the JHMC, attended the dialogue.

Residents, however, seemed unhappy over the new moratorium because, they said, the JHMC still controls their movements.

“Uray plywood ket alaenda” (They confiscate even a piece of plywood), a woman told the committee hearing.

Demot, however said that if the barangay captain issues a certification, the JHMC will issue a gate pass to allow the entry and exit of materials from the area.

In 2002, there was a moratorium to demolitions but repairs were allowed. In 2003, however, the moratorium was amended and disallowed the renovation, expansion and construction of additional structures in the CJH reservation.

Residents say that they were not informed of the conditions of the moratorium. They said that families grow and children have grown into adults who eventually formed new families. Thus, necessitating the building of new houses on lands their parents gave them, the residents reasoned out.

Segregation efforts in Camp John Hay

Happy Hollow is one of 13 barangays to be segregated from CJH reservation. It is included in the 19-point conditionality as contained in City Resolution # 362 that the city council passed for compliance by the CJH. The other barangays are Loakan, Apugan, Liwanag, Lucnab, Scout Barrio, Green Water, Hillside, Dagsian, Lualhati, Baguio Country Club Village, Gabriela Silang and Sta. Scholastica.

In 2001, JHMC started a mapping of structures and census of actual occupants in the reservation to justify a congressional declaration that the area is alienable and disposable in favor of the occupants. A presidential action is necessary for the approval of the segregation.

Only Scout Barrio has been delineated when residents here agreed to pay P300 per square meter to the BCDA in 1999.

A Barangay Segregation Committee was earlier formed with then Mayor Bernardo Vergara as head and the city council and officials of the 13 affected barangays as members. After the titling of Scout Barrio, however, the segregation efforts stopped, according to Happy Hollow Brgy. Capt. Joseph Sacley, who was also present at the dialogue.

The operation of the segregation committee was suspended during the May 2004 elections, the barangay captain told the city council. Northern Dispatch/ Posted by Bulatlat.com

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