Former Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn belied claims of land grabbing by some Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IP) families in Sitio Labtay, Barangay Napsan on Monday in a hearing called by village officials.
The issue was brought to light when a certain Rina Laagay, a Tagbanua resident, complained in a local radio station about some 40 people illegally demolishing their homes in Labtay.
Almenito “Rigit” Laagay, father of Rina, also complained in the barangay that the men have no papers ordering the demolition nor did their family receive any notice to vacate.
“Gusto lang naming maibalik sa amin iyong lupa namin,” Almenito said.
Hagedorn said the land grabbing accusation against him was false because he has photos and documents on the sale of the property.
He added that an investigation made by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) led by Felizardo Cayatoc did not show any Laagay as the rightful owner of the land in question.
The past owner, Hagedorn said, was Pedro Aguhayon Sr.
“Very clear naman ang sinabi ng CENRO. Sabi ni [Felizardo] Cayatoc, nag-imbestiga sila roon at wala silang nakitang Laagay. Ang sinasabi ni Mr. Aguhayon, sila ‘yong nakatira roon,” Hagedorn said.
Aguhayon, a resident of the same barangay, confirmed Hagedorn’s statement by saying his family was the one that occupied the land since 1997 until he sold it.
“Ang nakatira dyan noong 1997 ay ‘yong biyenan ko lang at tsaka ‘yung pamilya ko hanggang noong naibenta ko, umalis na ako,” said Aguhayon.
Datuwin Laagay, the late father of Almenito, applied for land title in 1962. But his application went idle for 35 years until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) rejected it in 1997.
The title was allegedly confirmed by the DENR for a certain Greg Villegas.
“‘Yong kay Pedro, 1989 in-applayan. Kayo, 1962, tama namang nauna kayo pero ang sabi rito ng CENRO, both applications were rejected noong July 1997. Ni-reject ‘yan dahil nga wala raw kayo roon. Isa ‘yon sa mga requirements, dapat naroon kayo,” Hagedorn said.
Aguhayon also said that the Laagays received shares from the sale of the land, including sacks of rice. However, Almenito denied this, claiming he did not receive any payment or share.
“Hindi man ako nakatanggap kahit [softdrinks] sa pera na yan. Kahit singkong duling wala,” Almenito said.
In 2010, while finalizing the sale with Asian Gateway, Hagedorn’s team visited the area and discovered the Laagays informally settling in the property.
Hagedorn said he gave them P200,000 to vacate the place.
“Sa tiwala ko sa inyo, at naaapi kayo, ayokong may naaapi binigyan ko kayo ng P200,000. Halos bentahan na ng lupa iyan noong mga panahong iyon pero maganda ang usapan na umalis kayo,” Hagedorn said.
“From 2010 to 2019, wala kayo diyan. Noong napunta na ‘yan sa SM, biglang-bigla kayong pumasok ngayon,” he added.
Hagedorn said Almenito also sold him a piece of land for nearly P1 million but the documents he presented were rejected by the CENRO.
Despite what happened, Hagedorn said he never asked Almenito to return the P1 million.
“Sabi ng CENRO bakit ko daw binayaran ito samantalang drawing-drawing lang naman ito. Ipinabalik ko ba sayo ‘yog P1 million? Hindi,” he said.
Almenito denied he was paid the amount for the second property, but Hagedorn showed some documents which they both signed in the presence of a lawyer.
“Ito lahat ng pirma mo sa harap ng abogado, hindi lang sa harap ko. Ngayon tinatanggi mong binayaran kita, talagang hindi tayo magkakasaundo dahil lahat ng sasabihin namin may ebidensya tapos ang isasagot niyo lang sinungaling kami,” Hagedorn said, showing several documents dated and signed by both parties.
Engr. Rafael Abaa, National Commission on Indigenous People’s (NCIP) representative, said in the hearing that they received the complaint and within the evaluation of the provincial office, the properties appeared to be titled.
“Ayon sa IPRA, partikular doon sa Section 56, ‘property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon effectivity of this Act, shall be recognized and respected,’” Abaa said.
“So ibig sabihin, kung ito ay titulado, kinikilala at ginagalang,” he added.
Almenito requested to be given a week to vacate the property but Hagedorn insisted for them to leave as soon as possible.
“Umalis kayo dyan bago tayo mag-usap pero habang nandiyan ‘yang bahay mo, huwag kang matutulog ng mahimbing baka natutulog ka sa gabi gibain naming lahat iyan,” Hagedorn said.
The case was resolved during the barangay hearing. The Laagay family left the property voluntarily.
Hagedorn’s team then proceeded to the site and made sure that the huts are demolished.