GenSan LGU vs NCIP on ancestral land claim of part of airport

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 Aug) – The city government here has filed administrative and criminal charges against top officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Register of Deeds over the issuance of ancestral land title earlier this year to some 87 hectares of land that cover a portion of the city airport.

City Mayor Darlene Magnolia Antonino-Custodio said Thursday she personally filed a complaint before the City Prosecution Office earlier this week against NCIP officials led by its chair, lawyer Eugenio Insigne, six commissioners, a regional official and the officer-in-charge of the local Register of Deeds for awarding last January a portion of the 599-hectare airport as ancestral land of a clan.

She contended that the issuance of the Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) to the Bansalao-Banisil family of the B’laan tribe was irregular as it included declared public lands covering the city airport in Barangay Fatima.

“They issued a land title for a public land that was covered by a government declaration for the use of the airport. That’s clearly illegal and irregular,” the mayor told reporters.

Named as respondents in the complaint were NCIP Chairman Isigne; NCIP Commissioners Rolando Rivera, Rizalino Segundo, Noel Felongco, Janette Serrano-Reisland, Felecito Masagnay and Miguel Imbing Sia Apostol; NCIP Region 12 Director Jeanne Anne Zoilo; and General Santos City’s Register of Deeds Edgar Pampanga.

Custodio cited that the NCIP and the Register of Deeds specifically violated the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9649 or the amended Charter of the City of General Santos when they issued CALT R12-GSC-0110-000250 for some 87.277 hectares of the airport last January 28.

She said Section 98 of RA 9649 specifically provides that “All land of the public domain having been ceded by the national government to the City of General Santos, the city shall exercise the rights and prerogatives over such lands in the concept of a beneficial owner.”

The mayor cited that the “disposition of all lands of the public domain within the city shall be in accordance with the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, and all other pertinent laws, executive issuances, rules and regulations: Provided, That all incomes and receipts derived from such disposition, administration and management of all lands of the public domain shall accrue exclusively and to be turned over immediately without need of demand to the city.”

She said it added that the city government “shall at all times be consulted and informed such disposition, administration and management: Provided, finally, that the city government shall concur prior to any disposition, administration and management of such public lands.”

“After the passage of the amended city charter, the issuance of these CALTs by the NCIP and the corresponding titles from the Register of Deeds will need the concurrence of the city government,” Custodio stressed.

The mayor said the issuance of the CALT by the NCIP for the lands covering portions of the airport were done without proper consultations with the local government, which considers the subject lands as public domain.

Custodio said they filed the complaint to correct the irregular issuance of the CALT and give the city its fair due based on the provisions of RA 9649.

She said the filing of the charges should also serve as warning to concerned parties who have been speculating on the lands in the city.

“All these should be done properly and in due process to avoid conflicts among concerned parties,” Custodio said.

Aside from the City Prosecution Office, City Administrator Jose Mariano Gonzales said the City Legal Office also endorsed the same complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao.

“The complaint for violation of RA 9649 will eventually cover civil, administrative and criminal charges against the respondents,” he said.

Gonzales said that based on penal provisions, the respondents may face imprisonment of at least six years and perpetual disqualification from government service if they would be found guilty.

NCIP officials in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao have yet to issue an official statement on the matter but sources said the office is already preparing its response to the city government’s complaint.

But Edgar Pampanga, acting city Register of Deeds, insisted that there was nothing irregular with the issuance of the CALT to the airport area’s claimants.

“After a free patent application has been generated and a title is generated and the corresponding certificate of title is issued, the land ceased to be a part of public domain and becomes a private property,” he said.

Pampanga said they have already endorsed the matter to their central office and the Land Registration Authority for proper resolution.

For their part, Nathaniel Nazareno, local manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said they already filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the issuance of the CALT.

The airport, which is currently undergoing major renovation, was opened on July 6, 1996. Its construction was mainly funded by the United States Agency for International Development. Its runway that is 3,221 meters long and 45 meters wide can handle wide-body jets.

Nazareno cited that the airport is covered by Presidential Proclamation 219 issued in 1993 by then President Fidel Ramos that declared the area as a reservation for an international airport.

“No new proclamation has been issued so Proclamation 219 should stand as the legal instrument for this purpose,” he said.