The end, or is it?

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

An almost three-decade battle finally came to an end, with the City of Taguig emerging as the winner.

The Supreme Court, in a decision rendered December last year but only released recently, declared that the Fort Bonifacio military reservation is part of Taguig, and not of Makati City.

The Court, in its decision penned by Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario, declared permanent the 1994 injunction issued by the Pasig RTC which prevented the Makati city government from exercising jurisdiction over Parcels 3 and 4, comprising of Fort Bonifacio, and several other barangays or EMBOs.

As early as 1993, the then municipality of Taguig filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court of Pasig against the City of Makati seeking judicial declaration of the territory and boundary limits of Taguig and asking that two Presidential proclamations be declared as unconstitutional and null and void.

The complaint arose from Taguig’s territorial dispute with Makati over the areas comprising the enlisted men’s barangays (EMBOs) and the entire Fort Bonifacio.

Taguig claimed that the areas comprising these EMBOs and the Inner Fort in Fort Bonifacio, formerly known as Fort McKinley, were within its territory and jurisdiction. It also alleged that Presidential Proclamations 2475 and 518 issued in 1986 and 1990, respectively, be declared unconstitutional because they altered Taguig’s boundaries without the required plebiscite.

It was in 1957 when then President Carlos Garcia issued Proclamation 423 establishing Fort Bonifacio on what was formerly Fort McKinley. According to the Supreme Court, the proclamation’s title stated that the military reservation was located in Pasig, Taguig, Paranaque, and Pasay, and nowhere was it stated that the reservation was in Makati.

When the Bases Conversion and Development Authority was established in 1992, it caused the reconstitution of the map (survey plan Psu-2031) and the reconstituted map indicated that the entire Fort Bonifacio is within Taguig’s territorial jurisdiction.

Under the old PSU-2031, Fort McKinley was divided into four parcels: Parcel 1 located in Pasay, Parcel 2 in Pasay and Paranaque, Parcel 3 in Taguig, and Parcel 4 located in Taguig and Pasig. The proclamation established Fort Bonifacio on a portion of Parcel 2, the whole of Parcel 3, and a portion of Parcel 4.

In 1995, then President Fidel Ramos issued a special patent conveying a large tract of land in Taguig in favor of BCDA and another in favor of the Fort Bonifacio Development Corp.

But according to the City of Makati, the disputed areas were once part of a large estate called Hacienda Maricaban, owned by Dona Casal who later sold the northeastern portion to the US government. This parcel of land was within the jurisdiction of San Pedro Macati, Pasig, and Pateros and within this portion is Fort McKinley, which lay within San Pedro Macati’s territory.

It also claimed that in the 1918 and 1948 census of the US government in the Philippines, Fort McKinley was specifically included as one of the barrios of Makati.

When the Philippines gained independence from the US, Fort McKinley was ceded to the Republic of the Philippines. It was later renamed Fort Bonifacio and was under the authority of the AFP. In the 1960s, the families of AFP’s enlisted men were allowed to occupy areas within the military camp and they eventually established the EMBOs namely, Barangays Cembo, South Cembo, Comembo, East Rembo, West Rembo, Pembo and Pitogo.

Makati added that the NCSO census for 1970, 1975, and 1980 listed the EMBOs and the Inner Fort barangays as under Makati’s jurisdiction.

In 1986, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued a proclamation withdrawing a certain portion of Fort Bonifacio as a military reservation and declaring it open to disposition for entitled residents therein and this portion became the EMBO barangays and was situated in Makati, it alleged.

According to Makati City, in 1992, the BCDA was created and Fort Bonifacio was subsequently turned over to the BCDA pursuant to the government’s privatization program. It said Taguig’s delayed claim, which was filed only in 1993, was merely in anticipation of the privatization of Fort Bonifacio which would generate billions of pesos in local government taxes.

The RTC of Pasig in 2011 ruled in favor of Taguig and confirmed that the Fort Bonifacio military reservation is part of Taguig’s territory.

In 2013, the Court of Appeals 6th division decided in favor of Makati and this time confirmed that the disputed area consisting of the EMBO barangays and Inner Fort barangays in Fort Bonifacio are within the territorial jurisdiction of Makati City.

But the Supreme Court wrote finis to this long saga when it concluded that the contested areas, based on historical, documentary and testimonial evidence, indeed fall within the territorial jurisdiction of Taguig.

The High Tribunal noted that the evidence presented by Taguig was more credible.

It pointed out that Makati’s historical claim is based on a survey map which is based mainly on a private contract and an entry from property registry dating back to the Spanish colonization period.

On the other hand, Psu-2031, which was the basis of Taguig’s claim, and which was prepared at the instance of the US government to draw a survey map of Fort McKinley, was found to be authentic and used as reference for other survey maps.

The SC explained that between Psu-2031, which has been repeatedly recognized by duly constituted authorities, and a map which was prepared at the instance of a party to the case, based on documents evidencing private proprietary interests, the former carried more weight as it is impressed with the approval of or adoption by the sovereign itself.

PSU-2031, it said, shows that Parcel 4, where the disputed areas are located, is within the jurisdiction of Taguig.

It added that the cadastral surveys of both cities show that Parcel 4 is outside of Makati’s territorial jurisdiction and inside Taguig’s. Makati’s cadastral map, it was shown, did not include the EMBOs. The Taguig cadastral map meanwhile included all of Parcel 3 and 4 or Fort Bonifacio in its entirety.

The SC also noted that between laws and presidential proclamations referring to the disputed areas as part of Taguig, and census results being cited by Makati, the former preponderates in terms of probative value.

But the Court did not rule on the constitutionality or validity of the assailed proclamations.

According to news reports, Parcels 3 and 4, which according to the SC belongs to Taguig, include not only the business district of Bonifacio Global City, but also the Philippine Army headquarters, Navy installation, Marines headquarters, Consular area, JUSMAG, Heritage Park, Libingan ng mga Bayani, AFP Officers Village, and six other villages, including the EMBO areas and the Inner Fort Barangays (Barangay Post Proper Northside and Post Proper Southside). Basically, the BGC complex and six barangays in Makati now fall within Taguig’s territorial jurisdiction, the reports claim.

According to the Makati city government, the disputed barangays will continue to be under its jurisdiction, adding that it will continue to protect its geographical integrity. The city’s legal officer said they will pursue all available legal remedies.

The Supreme Court is the court of last resort. In so far as this issue, then it’s the end of the story. But let us see how Makati City will be able to turn things around.



For comments, e-mail at [email protected].


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