BAGUIO CITY – The Supreme Court (SC) denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by the Cordillera Office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that sought to reverse an earlier ruling that set aside the temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction that the agency issued that prohibited the local government from pursing the dismantling of illegal structures in the Busol watershed since the basic issues remained in the motion having been duly considered and passed upon by the court.
In a 2-page notice, the SC found out that the NCIP-CAR did not raise any substantial argument to warrant the same to reconsider its earlier decision, thus, no further pleadings, motions, letters or others communications on the case shall be entertained.
Further, the High Court ordered that the entry of judgement on the case should be done considering that the same has become final.
Court records show that on July 27, 2009, NCIP-CAR regional hearing officer brain Masweng issued a 72-hour restraining order on the Gumangan petition and on the same date, he issued another 72-hour restraining order on the Ampaguey petition.
On August 14, 2009, Masweng issued a writ of preliminary injunction in NCIP Case No. 29-CAR-90 and 31-CAR-09.
The local government filed a petition for certiorari before the appellate court assailing the TRO and preliminary injunction issued by Masweng in the said cases but on August 5, 2010, the CA dismissed the local government’s petition for certiorari for being procedurally flawed because they did not file a motion for reconsideration before the NCIP.
The local government moved for reconsideration but the same was denied by the CA in its January 31, 2011 resolution that raised the matter to the SC.
The SC found that there are exemptions warranting its affirmative action in the said case since it involves paramount public interest as it pertains to the Busol water reserve, a source of basic necessity of the people of Baguio and other neighboring communities.
The decision added that the present issues are likely to be repeated, especially considering the other cases involving land claimants over the Busol water reserve.
The SC claimed that the local government’s petition with the CA did not amount to forum shopping despite the existence of a motion to dismiss with the NCIP-CAR considering that the two actions involve different reliefs based on different facts.
Earlier, the local government questioned the issuance of provisional remedies by the NCIPA and prayed that the same be dismissed for lack of a clear legal right to be protected while the motion to dismiss with the NCIP sought the dismissal of the main complaint of private respondents for the issuance of a permanent injunction to enjoin the demolition orders and to recognize their purported native title over the land involved.
The SC cited Masweng for indirect contempt for issuing restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in several cases pending in his office because the court had already ruled that the occupants in the Busol water reserve have no clear legal right warranting the issuance of preventive remedies.
The decision stated that the court had, on more than one occasion, found occupants of the Busol watershed reservation not entitled to the preventive writ for lack of a clear legal right considering that the recognition claims were still pending before the NCIP.
Taking into account all the cases involving land claims over the Busol water reserve, the SC asserted that it is settled that Proclamation No. 15 and the Indigenous Peoples right Act (IPRA), notwithstanding provisional remedies such as restraining orders and preliminary injunctions should not ipso facto be issued to individuals who have ancestral claims over the Busol reservation.
“It is imperative that there is a showing of a clear and unmistakable legal right for their issuance because a pending or contingent right is insufficient. Nevertheless, the grant or denial of this provisional remedies should not affect their ancestral land claim as the applicants are not barred from proving their rights in an appropriate proceeding,” the earlier decision stated.