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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CMU Victory!

On Sept 24, 2010, a week had passed since Central Mindanao University celebrated the highlights of its centennial, the Supreme Court of the Philippines released their decision - a victory for the university that labored and prayed to preserve its lands.

"GMA proclamation on Mindanao U land nullified
By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 09/27/2010 1:26 PM | Updated as of 09/27/2010 1:26 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court en banc has ruled as unconstitutional Presidential Proclamation 310 of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which appropriated land of Central Mindanao University (CMU) for distribution to indigenous peoples and cultural communities in Bukidnon.

In a 10-page decision penned by Justice Roberto Abad, the Court ruled that the Presidential Proclamation issued by President Arroyo on January 7, 2003 taking 670 hectares from CMU's registered lands was null and void because CMU's lands were not alienable public lands.

In 1958, 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. Over 3,080 hectares were eventually titled to CMU while more than 300 hectares of the remaining untitled lands were distributed to several tribes by government.

The High Bench held that the said 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. The Malaybalay RTC said jurisdiction lies with the Manila RTC where the official act of the executive department was done. But the Malaybalay RTC ruled then that PP 310 did not violate the Constitution since the State owned the lands, not CMU.

The Court of Appeals Mindanao Station 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.

The Supreme Court however held that regardless of a pending issue questioning whether the Malaybalay RTC prematurely decided the constitutionality of the proclamation which would have been proper for the CA Mindanao Station to hear, the Court already ruled on this since "ultimately, the issue of constitutionality of the Proclamation in question will come to (this) Court however the court below decide it. Consequently, the Court should, to avoid delay and multiplicity of suits, now resolve the same."

Thank you, God.