Sad news for the IPs? GMA proclamation on Central Mindanao Univ lands nullified

BUKIDNON NEWS | BUKIDNON ONLINE | MARAMAG | CONTROVERSY – Bad news for the indigenous peoples and cultural communities here in the Province of Bukidnon. The Supreme Court en banc, via a 10-page decision penned by Justice Roberto Abad, has ruled as unconstitutional the controversial Presidential Proclamation 310 (PP 310). PP 310 was established January 7, 2003 during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It appropriated hundreds of hectares of Central Mindanao University (CMU) land for distribution to indigenous peoples and cultural communities in Bukidnon.

The Court ruled that PP 310 issued by Arroyo, which took 670 hectares from CMU’s registered lands was null and void because CMU’s lands were “not alienable public lands.”

PP 310 was (and still is) a very controversial issue not only within the Central Mindanao University campus but within the entire province as well. It was an issue furiously fought against by the late Mardonio Lao, former CMU President.

The issue can be traced way back in 1958 when former President Carlos Garcia reserved 3,401 hectares of lands of the public domain in Musuan, Bukidnon, as school site for CMU by virtue of PP 476. CMU received 3,080 hectares (all titled) while more than 300 hectares remained untitled and were distributed by the government to several IPs.

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The Supreme Court said that the lands have become inalienable the moment former President Garcia dedicated the lands for CMU’s scientific and technological researches in the field of agriculture.

The Court also said that transferring the ownership of the lands in question is not in keeping with the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 which provides that “property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon its effectivity shall be recognized and respected.”

CMU questioned the constitutionality of PP 310 before the Malaybalay regional trial court, which dismissed the petition on the ground of lack of jurisdiction but did say that the PP 310 did not violate the Constitution since the state owned the lands and not CMU.

The case then moved to the Court of Appeals – Mindanao, which eventually dismissed CMU’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction stating that the issues raised were pure questions of law, and thus should have been filed before the Supreme Court via Petition for Certiorari.

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