CA declares as null and void CMU titles over 3,000-hectare land; Lumads hail decision

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 January) — “A landmark victory for indigenous peoples in Mindanao,” Bae Alma Binayao of the
Manobo-Talaandig tribe, said of the Court of Appeals Mindanao decision declaring “null and void” three land titles over 3,080 hectares in the
name of the Central Mindanao University, in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon.

The declaration was made in its December 30 decision, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews Monday.

The court favored the appeal of the government represented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to annul the decisions
of the cadastral court in 1975, which paved the way for the awarding of the three lots to CMU.

Bae Alma hailed the decision as a landmark victory for the indigenous peoples of Mindanao. The tribe claims the contested area as their
ancestral domain.
Dr. Ma. Luisa Soliven, the new CMU president, told MindaNews they elevated the case to the Supreme Court last week.
Soliven said they are confident about the Supreme Court’s decision, based in its 1992 and 2010 decisions in favor of the university.

“We now rest our case (before) the Court,” she said.

In its 16-page decision, the appellate court found merit in the government’s petition and ruled that the cadastral court had no
jurisdiction to order the registration of the subject land parcels.

“This court, thus, finds that the cadastral court had no jurisdiction to order the registration of the subject land parcels of land in the
name of CMU,” it added.
“Original Certificates of Tile (OCT) No. 0-160 (covering Lot 1-S), No. 0-161 (for Lot 2-A) and No. 0-162 (for Lot 2-Q) issued in the name of
the University are therefore null and void,” the court said.
It cited in the decision, Act. No. 2874 promulgated in 1919, which gave the executive department through the President, the exclusive
prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest.

The court ruled that the CMU-registered lands are inalienable and therefore should not be registered to its name.

It argued that CMU also failed to present to the cadastral court back in the 1970s a presidential proclamation or statute declaring the
subject parcels of land to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, thus they should become
alienable, and therefore can be titled.

“Even if the subject lots were declared alienable or disposable, there is no competent evidence that they are no longer intended for public
use or for public service,” the court argued in the decision.

On January 16, 1958, the land parcels were covered by Proclamation No. 476, issued by President Carlos P. Garcia, titled, “Reserving for the
Mindanao Agricultural College site purposes certain portions of the public domain situated in the Barrio of Musuan, municipality of Maramag, province of Bukidnon.”

The court emphasized, too, that the inalienable character of the subject parcels of land has been determined by the Supreme Court in
two decisions on CMU land.
In 1992, the SC nullified the decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) segregating 400 hectares of the land
covered by Proclamation 476 for distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Last year, the Supreme Court also declared “null and void” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Proclamation 310, issued on January 7, 2003
taking 670 hectares from CMU’s registered lands for distribution to indigenous peoples and cultural communities in Musuan, Maramag town.

But the CA decision, signed by associate justices Romulo Borja, Edgardo Lloren, and Ramon Paul Hernando, noted that the ruling covers only the 3,080 hectare land decreed to CMU since the adjudication of more than 300 hectares in favor of private individuals, including ancestors of the Manobo Talaandig tribe, was not questioned.

A leader of the tribe told MindaNews the decision is a vindication.

The court also clarified that the nullification of CMU’s titles “does not denote the university’s ouster from the parcels of land covered

“The University remains the rightful possessor of the subject parcels of land by virtue of Proclamation no. 476,” the justices said. (Walter
I. Balane / MindaNews)