BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch V here declared as valid the demolition order issued by the city government for the dismantling of structures at the government-owned Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (BIBAK) lot along Harrison Road.
In a seven-page decision issued October 28, 2016, Presiding Judge Maria Ligaya Itliong-Rivera dismissed the two cases filed by BIBAK lot occupants aimed at stopping the city government from implementing Demolition Order No. 24 series of 2015 directing the clearing of some illegal structures in the area.
The court said the petitioners failed to show that respondents Mayor Mauricio Domogan, city administrator Carlos Canilao, city buildings and architecture office and the anti-squatting and anti-illegal structures committee “committed grave abuse of discretion” in issuing said order.
“’An inalienable public land cannot be appropriated and thus may not be the proper object of possession.’ This pronouncement of the Highest Court of the land must, hence, put an end to this issue. No right, is therefore, violated by the implementation of the DO 24,” the court stressed.
The court said the petitioners were “duly notified of the (order) and were directed to obtain or present the necessary permits over their structures. Nonetheless, they failed to adduce any or prove that they exemption from the operation of the law.”
The cases were docketed as Civil Case No. 8285-R filed by the Miranda family led by Manuel Miranda Jr. and Civil Case No. 8285-R filed by 46 occupants led by Eleanor San Pedro.
The Mirandas, according to the decision, tried to prove their long-time possession of the area they are occupying through a letter from a Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources employee but it was not enough, according to the court.
“Sadly, long-time possession, without more, cannot vest any right of ownership especially in this case where the property involved is not alienable and disposable,” the court said.
On the other case, the court said, “The petitioners in Civil Case No. 8286-R have miserably failed to show that the public respondents committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing (DO) No.l 24 and the Demolition Advice.”
The same court last Oct. 22 denied for the second time the petitioners’ motions for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to hold the demolition.
On Sept. 9, the court first denied the motion citing earlier rulings that 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 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).
City administrator and city anti-squatting committee chair Carlos Canilao informed the mayor that the PCUP asked the city to verify if there were occupants belonging to the urban poor. The mayor said that based on the city’s investigation and as verified from the city’s master list based on the census conducted earlier, none of the affected parties can qualify as members of the urban poor.
Canilao earlier 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 no less than 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 apprised PCUP officer-in-charge Dr. Melissa Aradanas on the status of the lot and the circumstances that led to the city government’s action.
He 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 Dept. 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) No. 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 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. The body, after conducting their own investigation, withdrew their objection after proving the city’s cause./Aileen P. Refuerzo