The Supreme Court (SC) has denied for lack of merit the petition of the Municipality of Bakun, Province of Benguet against the Municipality of Sugpon, Province of Ilocos Sur, in connection with their dispute over 1,117.20 hectares of land located within their boundaries.
In a decision, the SC’s Third Division through Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez junked the petition for review on certiorari of the Municipality of Bakun assailing the decision dated February 1, 2018, and the resolution dated July 6, 2018, of the Court of Appeals, which in turn upheld the resolutions dated April 28, 2015, and July 27, 2015 of the Regional Trial Court of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Branch 25.
Under the ruling, the RTC set aside Joint Resolution No. 1, Series of 2014, dated May 12, 2014 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Ilocos Sur and Benguet (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) and adjudicated the disputed 1,117.20 hectares of land in favor of the Municipality of Sugpon, Ilocos Sur.
The high court gave weight to the findings of the RTC and the CA which are supported by the evidence on record, including the Administrative Map of Benguet showing that the disputed area was beyond the territorial area of Benguet and was, in fact, inside the territorial jurisdiction of Sugpon.
This was corroborated by other documentary evidence, such as Land Classification Map Nos. 3441 and 1298, the Topographic and Administrative Map of Ilocos Sur, and a certification from the officer-in-charge of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which shows that the disputed areas are within the territory of Sugpon.
The Department of Agrarian Reform also issued a certification stating that the disputed areas are located in Sugpon, which Bakun did not present evidence to rebut this certification.
Sugpon also submitted tax declarations showing that the land forms part of its territory, supported by a certification and a Master List of Tax Declaration from the Municipal Assessor of Sugpon.
The Schools Division Superintendent also issued a certification that Nagawa Elementary School, which is located in the disputed property, is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, Division of Ilocos Sur. Bakun did not dispute also the veracity of these documents.
Sugpon also submitted a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title showing that the disputed area has been continuously occupied, possessed, and utilized by the indigenous people and residents of Sugpon.
The case was referred to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, which after due proceedings, issued on May 12, 2014 Joint Resolution No. 1, Series of 2014 adjudicating the disputed area in favor of Bakun.
Aggrieved, Sugpon appealed to the RTC, which reversed the Joint Resolution No. 1, Series of 2014 and held that Act Nos. 1646 and 2877 could not be the basis for Bakun to assert a better right over the disputed property because these laws do not provide a specific delineation of the metes and bounds of the two municipalities.
Sugpon, on the other hand, presented maps and other documentary evidence which showed that the disputed area was beyond the boundary of Banquet and inside the territorial jurisdiction of Surgeon.
On appeal, the CA denied Bakun’s petition and maintained that the dispute land is within the jurisdiction of Sugpon. It also denied Bakun’s Motion for Reconsideration prompting Baku to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.