“They are making us politicians when in fact their selection process has only disintegrated the indigenous peoples,” — Bai Norma Capuyan, Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato
By DANILDA L. FUSILERO
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — An Indigenous People’s (IP) group in Cotabato province expressed concern over the appointment of sectoral mandatory representatives to the local government councils.
Bai Norma Capuyan of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC), a federation of IP groups here said that while there were IP reps installed at the municipal legislative councils, the selection process was not consistent with the customary practices of the tribes.
Capuyan’s reaction was in response to the declarations made by Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco who claimed that one of her accomplishments on her first term in congress was the installation of IP mandatory representation in the local legislative units.
“They are making us politicians when in fact their selection process has only disintegrated the indigenous peoples,” Capuyan lamented.
While ASLPC recognized that mandatory representation could be one venue of asserting their rights and well-being, the unnecessary intrusion of politicians in the selection process defeated the purpose and will eventually deprive them of their distinct customary political processes.
During her first term, Catamco reported that IP communities in Kidapawan City and in the towns of Makilala, Arakan, Magpet, and Matalam are now having “regular” seats in respective legislative bodies of these areas.
Mandatory representations of IPs in the municipalities of Antipas and President Roxas and at the provincial Sangguniang Panlalawigan are yet to be installed pending some process to comply with, the 2nd Congressional Office here reported.
“We are hoping that through this mandatory representation of IPs in the local legislative units, we can mainstream the IP concerns and development,” Catamco said.
Arakan parish’s Father Peter Geremia, PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), an IP rights advocate also scored the government’s programs and policies apparently manipulating the IPs.
The government should respect the fundamental rights of the IPs to carve their own development perspective, Geremia told Davao Today. “Because they comprise the most impoverished sector, they are easily manipulated,” Geremia added.
Former National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Commissioner Timuay Edtami Mansayagan reportedly called on the IP communities to unify ranks and their agenda in engaging government programs.
Section 16 of RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) afford IPs the right to fully (if they so choose) at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their well-being. IPRA guarantees mandatory representation of IPs in policy-making bodies and other local legislative councils.
Professor Leonor Magtolis-Briones, convenor of the national watch group Social Watch-Philippines, commented during the IP Summit here early this year that mandatory representation of IPs in the government’s decision-making bodies has long-been overdue.
The province of Bukidnon was the first to comply with the mandatory representation provision of the law in March, 2012, 15 years after IPRA was enacted in 1997.
In 2010, Rep. Catamco seemed to have enjoyed a wide support of the IP communities in the district after she proudly identified herself as an IP. These were manifested during her electoral campaign sorties with undeniable number of IPs in the crowd. However, as of press time there is no Comelec (Commission on Elections) data that showed IP votes casted for Catamco during the last elections.
With the recent act of reapportioning North Cotabato (RA 10177) into three legislative districts, Catamco’s reelection bid will cover Kidapawan City and the towns of Makilala, Magpet, Roxas, Antipas and Arakan — all with population that include IPs.
“My concern for the IPs is clear. I am an IP myself, my mother is a Bagobo-Manobo,” Catamco said in a press conference Monday here.
Putting the plight of Lumads as one of her focal concerns during the 2010 political campaign could have helped the then neophyte Nancy Catamco lodge a post in Congress, beating former political veteran Cong. Bernardo Piñol.
Should she be given a second term at the congress, Catamco said she will push with her intention to file a bill creating Tribal Barangays or Municipalities to showcase the rich IP culture and development. The creation of tribal barangays/municipalities is mandated under the IPRA law.
“I have also a bill for NCIP to become a regular department,” citing that maintaining NCIP as a commission under the Office of the President with limited resources rendered the office helpless in delivering services to the IP communities.
Former Cong. Gregorio Andolana, author of the IPRA Law, in previous interviews by local media here said that the NCIP is one of the government agencies with small budget allocations.
The provincial NCIP office here confirmed the budget and manpower problems of their office. Early this year, NCIP Provincial Officer Eric Raz said budget constraints them in processing the 74 pending Ancestral Domain applications filed in their office. Raz also lamented over small budget for IP children scholarship program. For instance, in 2009 the provincial NCIP office here received only 300,000 pesos (USD 7,171) for their scholarship program, forcing them to limit the scholarship assistance at 5,000 pesos (USD 119.52) per scholar every semester.
In 2000, the National Statistics Office pegged the population count of indigenous peoples in Cotabato Province at 12.08 percent (Manobo and other ethnic groups) out of the 958,643 total populations. (Danilda L. Fusilero/davaotoday.com)World