PHILIPPINES: Appeals bars Department of Agrarian Reform eviction order

Thursday, February 23, 2012

THE Court of Appeals (CA) granted the November 17, 2006 petition filed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to prohibit the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) from further implementing the eviction order against the heirs of an indigenous tribe in Malalag, Davao del Sur.

In its 40-page decision promulgated on January 31, the CA in Cagayan de Oro City junked the writ of execution issued by DAR Adjudication Board on October 3, 2006 and the notice to vacate premises issued by DAR on October 30, 2006 for the 701.1459-hectare ancestral land of the heirs of Egayan-Gubayan clan.

This developed after the CA found out that the ancestral land of the heirs of Egalan-Gubayan clan of the Tagacaolo tribe was certified and declared to the IPs’ favor pursuant to Section 52 (i) of Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA).

Section 52 (i) of Ipra is the “Turnover of Areas Within Ancestral Domains Managed by Other Government Agencies.”

Records showed that DAR claimed that the indigenous peoples have no right over the land.

Under the Ipra law, DAR, Department of Environment and Natural resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, the Commission of the National Development Corporation and other government agencies claiming jurisdiction over the ancestral domain should be notified by NCIP.

With that, NCIP chairperson lawyer Rueben Dasay Lingating sent a letter to DAR Secretary Rene Villa on September 11, 2004 requesting to suspend “land acquisition and distribution and land titling activities” in the area.

Lingating also sent a letter to Department of Land Reform secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman that the area has been certified as ancestral land of the heirs of Egalan-Gubayan clan pursuant to the Ipra law.

According to the CA, as per Ipra law, even the ancestral land was later reduced into 701.1459 hectares, the notification effectively terminated any legal basis for the jurisdiction previously claimed.

In an interview, lawyer Israelito Torreon told Sun.Star that this case has long been argued by parties that resulted in several deaths.

He recalled that in 2009 they were about to implement the injunction order but a certain Rodrigo Ribuyan of Davao del Sur Farmers’ Association resisted.

He said Ribuyan and his companions threw hand grenades at the police officers that resulted to deaths.

Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier organized a presidential task force headed by former Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III in which parties were required to submit their position papers.

Bello recommended the NCIP has the jurisdiction.

He said the said execution, as proved by Bello, was not implemented, thus the filing of petition before the CA.

On the other hand, the CA, in its decision, called on the NCIP to remain vigilant in upholding and protecting the well-defined rights of the Egalan-Gubayan clan as indigenous peoples. (Arianne Caryl N. Casas)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2012.

Source: The Sun.Star

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