100 Years Since the US Supreme Court’s Cariño Ruling: City Still Has No Clear Policy on Ancestral Land Claims

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — One hundred years since the United States Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mateo Cariño’s ancestral land claim, this city, which would be 100 years old on Sept. 1, still does not have a clear-cut policy on the recognition of ancestral rights of indigenous peoples here.

As the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued Certificates of Ancestral Land Title (CALTs) to Ibaloi claimants, like Cariño, it pushed the City Council for a session that would help the local government define its policy on ancestral land-related issues.

The session showed, however, that the city does not have clear policies on how to treat ancestral land claims and their stakeholders despite the presence of indigenous residents and the 12-year existence of Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), which is supposed to recognize indigenous peoples’ land rights.

According to a Nordis source, the NCIP national commissioners issued Certificates of Ancestral Land Title (CALTs) numbered 026, 027, 028, and 029 to the heirs of Lauro Carantes last month. These titles, the source said, were registered with the Registry of Deeds here.

There are more than 40 CALTs issued by NCIP for the city’s ancestral land claimants, where said CALTs were registered also at the Registry of Deeds here.

The city has been governed for more than 100 years by the Town Site Sales Applications (TSA), a system introduced by the American colonizer under which the alienable lands of the public domain here are sold to the highest bidder. The enactment of RA 8371 is supposed to be corrective of the historical injustice resulting from the state’s grabbing of indigenous peoples’ lands.

In the Council’s session on May 11, one of the issues raised by Councilor Isabelo Cosalan was that of whether ancestral lands in the city are to be recognized under Sec. 78 of RA 8371, which states that: “The City of Baguio shall remain to be governed by its Charter and all lands proclaimed as part of its Town Site Reservation shall remain as such until otherwise reclassified by appropriate legislation.”

Native title covers Baguio

Amador Batay-an, Cordillera Regional Director of the NCIP, a lawyer, said that there are those who believe that Sec.78 excludes the city from the coverage of RA 8371.

Batay-an, however, said that in the case of Mateo Cariño v. the Insular Government, the US Supreme Court ruled that lands held since time immemorial by indigenous cultural communities in the concept of an owner has been private in character and had never been part of the public domain.

The decision issued by the US Supreme Court on Feb. 23, 1909, came to be known as the Cariño doctrine in the legal circle. This is an exception to the Regalian Doctrine (or jura regalia) under which all land is deemed to belong to the state. Indigenous peoples’ rights advocates argue that the Cariño doctrine is incorporated in the IPRA.

Batay-an clarified in the session that CALTs are issued based on the Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (CLAIMS) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) prior to the passage of the IPRA law. The law was passed in October 1997 and took effect the next month that same year.

Ancestral land a hanging issue in Baguio

Melchor Rabanes, legal counsel of the Baguio City government, said that whether or not the city should be covered by the IPRA law remains a hanging issue.

He cited two cases pending before the Supreme Court: Baguio Re-greening Movement v. NCIP and the City Mayor v. Brain Masweng.. These cases would clarify the said issue as well as to the interpretation of Sec. 78, he said.

Rabanes also argued that the city was not consulted about the Land Registration Authority (LRA)-NCIP Memorandum of Agreement where the Registry of Deeds issues title pursuant to the agreement. He said that the city should be consulted based on Section 78 of RA 8371.

DoJ opinion supports AL recognition

Meanwhile, an Ibaloi resident claimed that Sec. 78 has been interpreted in favor of the registration of CALTs in the city’s Registry of Deeds.

She cited an Aug. 29, 2008 resolution issued by the Department of Justice (DoJ) which states that that Sec. 78 does not bar the registration of CALTs in the city, as the said provision merely confirms the status of lands proclaimed as part of the city’s Town Site Reservation and that no reclassification was made under RA 8371.

“Nothing in RA 8371 precludes the issuance of CALTs of lots within the Baguio Town Site Reservation which support the right of indigenous peoples to “claim parts of the ancestral domains which have been reserved for various purposes, except those reserved and intended for common public welfare and service,” states the resolution.

The DoJ issued the resolution when the LRA brought a petition to its office to render correct interpretation of Sec. 78 of RA 8371. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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