THE Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the dismissal of claims put forward by individuals over land in Makati currently controlled by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), ruling that the latter is the registered owner of 13.9 hectares.
The site was formerly occupied by the US military aid mission to the Philippines, the Joint US Military Group.
In a statement, the Supreme Court affirmed an earlier decision by the Court of Appeals (CA), which in turn had sustained the rulings of lower courts. The latter had dismissed claims over the Makati property, which is part of a larger, 35.5-hectare site.
“All told, the CA properly affirmed the ruling of the (Regional Trial Court), which sustained the (Metropolitan Trial Court) decision dismissing the case for lack of merit,” the SC said.
The trigger for litigation had been allegations that the BCDA had committed forced entry to access the site.
According to the SC, petitioners Severino P. Balmaceda, Carmen M. Batoon, and Jacobina T. Alcantara claimed to be legitimate occupants of the property, which they had occupied for more or less 30 years with the consent of its registered owner Agustina Huerva Alfabeto, grandmother of Ms. Alcantara.
They claimed that the BCDA in 2012 entered the site and instructed them to vacate the property.
The petitioners, who were told to demolish the structures on the site, said the BCDA started destroying roads within the property.
The BCDA, however, contended that the claim of ownership was fraudulent because the property has been a military reservation since the 1950s, covered by a proclamation issued by President Carlos P. Garcia, the high court said.
“Being its owner, the BCDA is entitled to possess and can evict petitioners from the subject property,” the SC said.
“The Court further held that pursuant to Section 28(b) or RA 7279, the BCDA is permitted to extrajudicially cause the eviction of petitioners and the demolition of the structures they built on the property,” it said. “Such is the case since eviction and demolition are necessary for the implementation of government infrastructure projects.”
“The Court also quotes with approval the observation of the CA that the BCDA still gave prior notice and assistance to petitioners despite not being required to do so,” it added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza