Gov’t Urged to Rectify Century-Old Injustice

The heirs of Mateo Cariño, ancestral land claimants to Camp John Hay and Baguio Dairy Farm, found allies among participants to the Baguio Land Conference, which sought recognition of a century-old injustice against Ibaloi families who lived here before the City was created.

Northern Dispatch
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Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — The heirs of Mateo Cariño, ancestral land claimants to Camp John Hay and Baguio Dairy Farm, found allies among participants to the Baguio Land Conference, which sought recognition of a century-old injustice against Ibaloi families who lived here before the City was created.

In time for the kickoff of the city’s 365-day countdown to the centennial next year, the heirs of Mateo Cariño also asked for support to their clamor for concrete reparation as part of the rectification of the century-old injustice their family suffered, saying they do not wish to reclaim the whole of Baguio City nor Camp John Hay but only the unoccupied portions of the public domain.

Some 80 participants to the Aug. 28-29 conference at the University of the Philippines (UP)-Baguio traced Baguio’s land problems from the various land laws that disenfranchised the native Ibaloi families and threatened both the tribal and non-tribal settlers who came to the city in later years. Settlers either helped build the city or worked the mines.

“We do not intend to remove, or fight with, actual occupants in our pursuit for recognition as original claimants to the land,” a Cariño heir told the conference. She said they also recognize the rights of the settlers to land and decent housing.

At least three groups represented the Ibaloi families in the conference. The Cariño Foundation, the Aspulan and the Center for Ibaloi Heritage and Loakan History discussed inter-related concepts of land claims and culture and how the clans lost these through time due to colonization and the introduction of land and IP laws that further complicated land ownership in the city.

Learnings from the Cariño case

Recalling events that led to the promulgation of the US Supreme Court decision known as the Cariño Doctrine or Doctrine of Native Title, Johanna K. Cariño, granddaughter of Dr. Jose Carino, a son of Mateo, said all efforts to right the wrong should start with the recognition that an injustice has been committed against Mateo Cariño.

“In his time, Mateo Cariño lived in Kafaguay, now the Rizal Park, right in front of City Hall. The Americans expropriated, through Act No. 636, a portion one kilometer in radius from this point for institutional purposes,” Cariño said.

She went on to relate Baguio’s local history, which told of pasturelands that extended from Kafaguay to the lowlands where the present San Roque dam now stands. Ypit and Lubas, now Camp John Hay, used to be part of Mateo’s pasture.

Another great-granddaughter, Kathleen T. Okubo, representing Aspulan, said Spanish colonizers recognized the vast estate at Ypit and Lubas (Camp John Hay) through a possessory information that defined the property’s metes and bounds and an approved plan for Bayosa’s (wife of Mateo) landholdings in Chuyo (Dairy Farm).

Three American lawyers who reportedly had the property titled in their names claimed Mateo sold the property to them. Another American, a mining prospector known only as Judge Hausserman was later said to have sold it to the US government, which declared it as a rest-and-recreation place for soldiers, Okubo added.

A US war department record showed, however, that the US Congress had no money to pay for the lease, based on research conducted by the foundation.

Mateo Cariño protested the arbitrary dispossession that deprived him and his family of his land. The case went as far as the US Supreme Court, which later, on Feb. 23,1909 decided in his favor.

“In April, 1908 Mateo bought back some portions of his property, He died two months later, in June that year,” the young Cariño said.

Leaving a legacy for the world’s indigenous peoples

Mateo Cariño died without seeing the fruit of his quest for the recognition of the native title. The Cariño Doctrine, however, is now being invoked by indigenous peoples worldwide.

Examples cited in the conference include the Maori of New Zealand and the Native Americans of the US and Canada.

“It is sad that in his own country, the law’s application is yet to be seen with the property for which the US Supreme Court then ruled still largely under state control,” the representative of the heirs said during the conference.

In his website, Jack K. Cariño said, “Mateo petitioned the Land Registration Court of the Philippine government for a title covering 148 hectares of the Camp John Hay reservation in the City of Baguio, which the group has been occupying since time immemorial as natives of the land. The motion was granted.”

The web article continued, “In 1904 the government appealed the decision of the Land Registration Court with the Court of First Instance claiming that Cariño had no right over the land since he was not able to present any Spanish title. The Court of First Instance ruled in favor of the government.”

Cariño appealed the decision of the court of First Instance with the United States Supreme Court. The court in upholding his rights over the property, ruled, in effect, the establishment and recognition of a “native title” to the property.

The ruling, penned by then US Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, is now the international instrument known as the Mateo Cariño Doctrine, which recognizes as valid land rights established by testimonies or memories that the land has been held, occupied and utilized in ownership since time immemorial.

Doable yearnings

The heirs also forwarded in the conference their common call to rename Camp John Hay in recognition of the native owners. They also asked that KM 0, the site of the Cariño house, bear a landmark that would remind Baguio visitors of such an anecdote in the city’s local history.

The Baguio Land Conference put forward three other resolutions pertinent to the Ibalois. One is the need for continuing dialog between the original native land claimants and the setters; the recognition of the ancestral land claims; and the preservation of Ibaloi culture and traditional knowledge and ensuring its transmission to the youth.

The land conference also scrutinized the proposed changes in the city charter, went over stories of alleged expanding land titles and examined the overlapping claims. Towards the end of the two-day discussions, resolutions were forwarded for further collective action.

Cordillera Studies Center-College of Social Sciences of UP Baguio, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Tongtongan ti Umili (People’s Forum), Tebtebba Foundation, Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability and the Baguio City Council Committee on Law and Committee on Land were the main sponsors of the conference. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (

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