Supreme Court affirms Ati ownership of 2-hectare land in Boracay

Lian Buan
Supreme Court affirms Ati ownership of 2-hectare land in Boracay
The private claimants take the wrong appeal route, which is the High Court's basis in upholding the authority of the NCIP award of ancestral domain

MANILA, Philippines – The Ati Indigenous Cultural Community won its legal battle before the Supreme Court (SC) for its ancestral claim of a 2-hectare land in Barangay Manoc-manoc in Boracay, Aklan.

Private claimants, husband and wife Gregorio and Ma. Lourdes Sanson, filed an appeal before the SC, but their petition was denied because of wrong procedure.

Because of the SC ruling, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) ancestral domain award to the Atis in 2010 is the one that stands. The ruling of the First Division was promulgated June 10 but released to media only on Wednesday, August 28.

It involved a 25,310 square-meter land, or roughly 2 hectares, in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, near Station 1 of the world-famous tourist destination Boracay island.

The dispute over this land has spurred on violence in the past. President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to distribute more Boracay lands to the Atis.


The NCIP awarded a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) on August 23, 2010 to the Atis represented by tribe leader Delsa Supetran Justo.

In 2011, the Sansons – the private claimants – moved for the cancellation of the CADT by filing a petition before the Kalibo Regional Trial Court (RTC).

The Atis argued that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the case, pursuant to the Indigenous Peoples’ Act which gave NCIP jurisdiction over claims involving IP rights. 

The Kalibo RTC issued two orders affirming its jurisdiction to handle the case.

The Atis elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA). In 2012, the CA reversed the trial court and set aside the orders.

That was when the private claimants went to the Supreme Court. But their petition was denied.


The SC First Division did not agree with the CA that NCIP has “exclusive and original jurisdiction” over the case. Instead, the First Division said it is the NCIP which has the “primary jurisdiction” over any appeals for the cancellation of CADTs.

“We find that the NCIP has primary, not original and exclusive, jurisdiction over the cancellation of CADTs in accordance with the IPRA law,” said the First Division ruling.

However, the SC said the private claimants took the wrong route when it filed a petition before the RTC. They should have directly filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals (CA), the SC said.

“(Private claimants) could have filed an appeal from the NCIP En Banc resolution to the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Rule X, Section 27 of the Revised Rules of Procedure before the NCIP. The records show no such appeal was taken,” said the ruling.

The SC further said: “It would then appear that the complaint subsequently filed was an attempt to revive a lost appeal, which cannot be countenanced.” –


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.