Court stops Baguio from recognizing IPMR

BAGUIO CITY  – A local court presided by an indigenous peoples (IP) judge enjoined the local government of Baguio from committing any act that will recognize Roger Sinot, Sr. as the city’s Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) and as a member of the local legislative body.

In a 3-page order that granted the issuance of a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining Sinot from assuming or exercising authority as the city’s IPMR or a member of the local legislative body, Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 6 also enjoined the local government from appropriating any budget for the salary of Sinot and of the IPMR office.

“Taking into consideration the arguments of the parties, the court takes an extra mile in determining the propriety of issuance of a TRO. The court, at this point, would like to look into the matter more in detail to determine the respective rights of the parties. We have to balance the conflicting interests of the petitioners and the concerned respondent public officials and the person being restrained. This is specially so that no appropriation of public funds was yet made for this particular office,” the order stated.

Earlier, Lawyer Manuel Cuilan of the Ibaloi tribe, Paul Pasigon and Joseph Sacley of the Kankanaey tribe and Gaspar Cayat of the Kalanguya tribe filed a petition before the local court seeking the issuance of a TRO preventing Sinot from being allowed to seat as the city’s IPMR due to alleged flaws in his selection aggravated by the fact that he was not allegedly qualified for the said position based on the existing guidelines.

During the hearing on the application for a TRO conducted after the raffle on January 22, 2018, Atty. Jingboy Atonen, counsel for the petitioners, Atty. Melchor Carlos Rabanes of the City Legal Office and Atty. Francis Rae Camtugan II , representing Sinot, were present and the court made inquiries on the basis of the allegations of the petition and the application for TRO.

On the same day, the local government filed a special civil action for interpleader with prayer for temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against Sinot and upon due motion, the same case was consolidated with the earlier petition.

The court stated that both cases essentially seek to retrain Sinot from assuming and discharging his roles and functions as IPMR to the local legislative body, thus, the petitioners in the earlier civil case are exempted from the imposition of a TRO bond since it does not yet appear that the person restrained would suffer pecuniary damage by reason of the TRO and that the local legislative body has not yet acted on any ordinance for the appropriation of funds for the salaries and office needs for the IPMR.

The cases are set for hearing by the court on Friday, February 2, 2018, 11 am, where the parties could further expound on their arguments relative to their respective positions on the matter.

The court also required the parties to comply with the existing judicial affidavit rule to allow the rendering of the decision on the said issue.

Sinot was supposed to report to work as a member of the local legislative body after he was sworn to office by Councilor Faustino A. Olowan even if the local government did not appropriate funds for his salary and the said office.

By Dexter A. See

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