LAST week of May, five great grandchildren of Mateo Cariño were invited to Malacanang to share their grievances related to issues on ancestral lands in Baguio to concerned people in the palace. I was told that Mateo’s great grandchildren were entertained and that their worries were attended to, at least in this administration.
I give importance to ancestral lands in Baguio and elsewhere in the country as this is an issue that has not been seriously addressed since the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was signed into law 23 years ago. Even SC justices discount it.
Instead of the law easing up centuries-old land problems, legitimate Ibaloy claimants in possession of their lands still face an uphill climb towards acquiring certificates of title over real properties they protected from intruders for the longest time.
That Malacanang visit gave new hope to descendants of original land owners as statements from the Duterte administration supported and upheld the Cariño Doctrine or Native Title Doctrine as defined by the United States Supreme Court in Cariño vs Insular Government of the Philippines.
Hopefully this reverses the effect of a SC decision over certain ancestral lands in Baguio that was penned in 2019 by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio prior to his retirement.
That decision maliciously disregarded the Cariño Doctrine. Surely, it was not an innocent decision because a lawyer worth his salt should be aware of the Native Title Doctrine.
For more than 50 years before the Treaty of Paris on April 11, 1899, Mateo Cariño and his ancestors possessed their land by installing fences for holding farm animals, tilled parts of it and used most of the area for pasturing cattle.
In the years 1893, 1894, 1896 and 1897, he made an application but with no avail until he was able to process a possessory title over the land under his name in 1901. Still, even if he had a title, he could not have it registered because the Philippine Commission Act No. 926 of 1903 exempted the Province of Benguet from its operation.
Fast forward, since Cariño’s land was not registered as it had no paper title to show the court in the Philippines, he lost his case. However he appealed his case to the United States Supreme Court.
Then on February 23, 1909; Justice Holmes declared: “It might perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land.”
This proves that the native title to land or ownership of land by natives in Baguio and the Cordillera by virtue of possession under a claim of ownership existed since time immemorial and exempted from the theory of Jura Regalia or Regalian Doctrine under the Spanish colonizers.
Under the Spanish colonial law, “jura regalia” applied to all Spanish colonial holdings. It is the capacity of the colonizer to own or acquire property under its power of absolute ownership and control of property. The lands in Baguio never became “public lands” even until the Americans made it into a Charter City. Carpio knew this but decided otherwise.
Associate Justice Carpio caught my attention again when the 1Sambayan came out in the news months ago. I thought there was no time for election-related politics at this point since we should all be busy fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Considering the alarming surge of infections in many parts of the country and the very slow rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines, all politicians including the 1Sambayan and administration officials have to focus on the problem at hand rather than the May 2022 elections.
And that, as far as I have seen in the past, is how politics works. You prepare for the elections by making yourself busy with government work. A sitting elected official should know how to use his incumbency to his advantage in an upcoming election.
That, in as far as access to resources and visibility are concerned, including acting like a janitor to catch the attention of voters. Although that is not so, especially in Benguet. Incumbency, especially for a Davaoenyo, does not guarantee victory. That goes for retired Justice Carpio and Davao City mayor Sara Duterte Carpio.
Evenwhile 1Sambayan convenor Carpio said that he is not interested in running for any position, we still have months before filing certificates of candidacy and he might change his mind. But I am swearing this early that I will campaign against him because of his position on Baguio ancestral lands.
Same thing for Sara. I am sure she will lose even if she gets the bigger chunk of votes in Mindanao because crazy Filipino voters would not want another Duterte in Malacanang.
Politicians always state that the people are the beneficiaries to the promises they make during political campaigns. But in reality, in many cases, the bigger beneficiaries are the politicians themselves.
True, public service has always been described as a “labor of love” for the community. Public officials are elected to serve the people and not become filthy rich. Regrettably, it does not work that way. That is why, voters have to examine all sides of a candidate.
Retired Justice Carpio looks at the present administration as incompetent, mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic, undermined the rule of law, and hates Duterte for his decisions regarding the South China Sea. These are the reasons for organizing the 1Sambayan political coalition.
While there may be some truth to his observations, I do not see these as issues close to the heart and stomach of the voters. Both Carpio and Carpio, along with their followers should not let their political dreams to oust each other in May 2022 blind them to the political realities on the ground.
The realities are food in the stomach, jobs, salaries, the Baguio market, priorities in public works especially in rural communities in Benguet, school needs and tuition fees, and the basic things.