Republic Act 8371, known as the Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA) of 1997, is a law that recognizes, protects and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities or indigenous peoples and creates the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The Department of Education is tasked by this act to assist, promote, and support community schools, both formal and non-formal, for the benefit of the local indigenous community, especially in areas where existing educational facilities are not accessible to members of the indigenous group.
With lots of schools considered “squatters” in our region, installing the act of courage and truthfulness to serve among stakeholders is required. Nowadays it is to be accepted that some school sites are being taken back by these indigenous peoples (IPs) or heirs of donors who are considered as stakeholders or partners in the promulgation of the law.
I worked in a school which had occupied the school site for more than 30 years. After receiving an order on the approved application for school site title, pertinent documents like tax declaration, deed of donation, certification on the kind of school site, and others were submitted to CENRO-PENRO. Follow-up was done on this issue. At present, the registration of the title to the Office of the Registry of Deeds would had been achieved and would be a success story of the school and community if not due to a protest from the heir of the donor of the school site.
Dialogue among the stakeholders of DepEd, DENR, LGU, school, and the community was accomplished. One topic of the dialogue was about a graveyard on the school site. Members of the heir of the donor would like to exclude the area from the tax-declared total area of the school site. A win-win solution to the problem was emphasized.
Apparently, I did not consider their request which they pronounced earlier during a barangay assembly. Thus, I am blamed for ignoring their clamor. I am the source of the problem. To this, I have disobeyed and even offended them.
Having discussed some of the possible solutions to their clamor for approval to higher offices, I was admonished by the spokesperson on my previous action. I stood, glanced at the witnesses, slowly and humbly stated my apology to those concerned for not heeding their call. I stressed firmly that I do not have the power and authority to change any data of an existing school document on school site.
School personnel are stewards of the institution assigned to them and are mandated to continue what had been initiated by colleagues for the continuous improvement of schools and the communities. I affirmed that they as the stakeholders of the school would not be glad if I would be charged with an administrative case, and would probably lose my job. A common understanding of the situation was my plea, and my apologies also to the DepEd family for any wrongdoing that I might have done on this matter.
Afterwards, the spokesperson of the heirs stood and shook my hand with a glimpse of relief on the face. We felt much better. In an instinct, the guests nearby did same gesture.
This event is in contrast with other schools who had received their registered school site title within at least three months. In fact, some schools have two school sites both approved for titling. It implies that the issuance of a title for school site, even if it is now within the authority of PENRO, would be a long journey if matters affecting the smooth flow of the processes such as ownership of the school site have yet to be settled.
DECS Order No. 57, s. 1995 had been encouraging school personnel to acquire titles for school sites to safeguard the interest of the school against reconveyance suits and claims for payment of parcel of land used as school sites, generate data to facilitate the allotment of national appropriations for school buildings, and support site ownership requirements necessitated by foreign-assisted projects.
Beloved partners, we appeal to you to help any school institution of the community in the acquisition of school site title within the shortest span of time. This is your legacy. In doing so, the number of schools considered “squatters” will be lessened. Believe that partnership is an arrangement where parties, known as partners, agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests for the common good.
By Virginia B. Salio-an