IPPF-BuCor Superintendent C/CInsp. Gary Garcia presented the BuCor’s stance regarding the contested 1,700 hectare land in Brgy. Inagawan-sub. (PN photo)

The city government wants a court ruling on the disposition of some 1,700 hectares of property in Barangay Inagawan that are currently occupied by farmers but are being claimed by the Bureau of Corrections as part of the penal facility.

Councilor Nesario Awat, chair of the Committee on Legal Matters in the Sangguniang Panlungsod, said they will continue deliberating on the matter but will ask the courts to rule on its jurisdiction. He asked that both the corrections bureau and the residents of Inagawan respect the court’s ruling on who has the right over the unclassified land.

“Ang point muna natin ay wala munang demolition, without a court order,” Awat said during a public hearing on the site on August 3, Thursday.

Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) Superintendent Gary Garcia, on the other hand, pointed out that the 1,700 hectares legally belonged to the BuCor, citing a memorandum of agreement and deed of transfer signed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1994, and an updated one signed by DOJ Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez on February 2, 2004.

Garcia explained that, based on the agreement, the former inmates and employees of the BuCor have priority in case the land is already classified and becomes available for distribution.

Councilor Elgin Damasco said they have passed a resolution asking Congress to declare the unclassified forest land as alienable and disposable and to be given to the farmers and their families who are its actual occupants.

He added that there is another resolution addressed to Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to issue a reclassification of the land for the same purpose.

Damasco also encouraged residents to police themselves so as not to cause any more problems, as there were reports that residents were selling lands that they didn’t have any legal titles for.

“Wag kayong magdagdag ng problema sa pamamagitan ng pagdagdag ng mga tao dyan, nagbebenta kayo. Tanggalin niyo yun. Hindi tayo magtatagumpay pag dadagdag kayo ng problema.”

A Katutubong Tagbanwa representative, Arturo Quijano Jr., added his approval for the deliberation.

He reminded those present that the barangays of Kamuning, Inagawan, and Inagawan-sub fall under the ancestral domains of the Tagbanuas and that, by Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the unclassified lands are not officially owned by anyone.

“Yung pinaguusapan kanina sa isyu ng BuCor at 1,700 yun, alam ng city council yan. Alam naman natin doon sa batas na part ng claim ng mga katutubo yung pinaguusapan kanina. Sabi doon sa 1987 Constitusyon, Section 22, Article 2, respect the rights of the indigenous cultural community,” he said.

“Yan ay part ng ancestral domain ng mga Tagbanua. Yan ang Kamuning, Inagawan, at Inagawan Sub. So, may support ng resolution din yan na alam din ng city council, mayor pa noon si Congressman [Edward] Hagedorn, na hindi puwedeng ipamigay at hindi puwedeng ipabalii ang ancestral domain,” he added.

No representative from the Department of Agrarian Reform was present during the public hearing.