BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has cited for contempt an official of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) for issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the demolition of illegal structures at the Busol watershed in this city.
In a decision on Feb. 19, the SC found NCIP-CAR hearing officer Brain Masweng guilty of indirect contempt and ordered him to pay a P10,000-fine.
Former Baguio City mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., represented by legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes, filed the petition for contempt against Masweng, saying his act is contemptuous and “a willful disregard, disobedience, defiance and resistance to the decision of the Supreme Court.”
The SC in a decision on Feb. 4, 2009, upheld the city government’s decision to demolish structures within the Busol watershed in 2006, and reversed a decision of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the jurisdiction of the NCIP to issue a TRO.
Despite the order, Masweng on July 28, 2009 issued a 72-hour TRO and extended it for 17 more days, saying the city government has no power under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 “to evict indigenous communities from their present occupancy nor resettle them to another area without their consent.”
The SC said Masweng’s “willful disregard and defiance” of its ruling on a matter submitted for the second time before his office cannot be countenanced.
The city government in elevating the case before the SC said Masweng’s TRO on the demolition orders denied them the opportunity to clear the watershed of squatters and illegal constructions, protect it from activities that degrade it and preserve the reservation which is the city’s main source of water supply.