SC rules NCIP has primary jurisdiction over ancestral domain claims

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2019 03:38 AM | Updated as of Aug 29 2019 05:57 AM

MANILA—The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the dismissal of a petition that sought to cancel some 2.5 hectares of land awarded by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to the native Ati community in Boracay Island.

The high tribunal’s first division, in a 7-page decision promulgated on June 10, 2019, affirmed the 2015 decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) that dismissed the petition of private claimants to have the title awarded to the ethnic group canceled.

"Petitioners could have filed an appeal from the NCIP En Banc resolution to the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Rule X, Section 27 of the Revised Rules of Procedure before the NCIP. The records show no such appeal was taken,” the SC ruled.

"It would then appear that the complaint subsequently filed was an attempt to revive a lost appeal, which cannot be countenanced."

In 2010, the NCIP awarded the Ati group a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) to a parcel of land in Barangay Manoc-manoc.

A year later, husband and wife Gregorio Sanson and Ma. Lourdes Tiron-Sanson asked the lower court in Kalibo, Aklan to cancel the CADT.

The Ati group argued the lower court did not have jurisdiction over the case. The group brought it later to CA when the Kalibo Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued orders affirming its authority to handle the case.

In 2015, the appellate court ruled that the couple should have filed their complaint before NCIP, which it said has exclusive and original jurisdiction over the case. The Sansons then raised their petition to the high tribunal and were denied.

In its ruling, the high court also said the Kalibo RTC committed grave abuse of discretion by taking cognizance of the case.

"It is clear from the foregoing that the NCIP has primary jurisdiction to resolve claims over ancestra lands involving the cancellation of fraudulently issued CADTs, whether the parties are non-Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs)/Indigenous Peoples (IPs) or members of different ICCs/IPs group," SC ruled.—With report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News