Nothing to celebrate on IPRA’s 15th year, party-list says

Oct. 31, 2012

“The IPRA law only served as a tool to legally plunder our ancestral lands. The law, in its present form, cannot provide the realization and attainment of our rights” — Francesca Tolentino, secretary general of the Katribu Partylist

Davao Today

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — Fifteen years after the landmark enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), lumads (indigenous peoples) across the country continue to fight for their rights on ancestral land and self-determination, a progressive party-list said.

Francesca Tolentino, Secretary General of the Katribu Partylist, in a press statement said that the law supposedly aimed to protect their collective and human rights “has been inutile and merely pays a lip service.”   She added, the law didn’t help in defending their ancestral domains “against the intrusion of large-scale mining, logging, agri-plantations and even eco-tourism development projects.”

The Manobo, Bawa-Bagobo, Arumanen, and Blaan lumads in the upland villages of the towns of Magpet, Arakan and Tulunan in North Cotabato, for instance, are left to their own devices in defending their traditional territories from big agri-business projects.

The Blaans in Tulunan town’s Bacung village are protesting the conversion of their 4,819-hectare ancestral land into rubber and napier grass plantations while the Manobo and Arumanen tribes in the towns of Matalam, Carmen and Kabacan have been subjected to oil palm plantation.

Mining explorations in Magpet, Roxas and Arakan towns are also seated in lumad territories as well as the controversial MegaDam5 in Lama-lama village in President Roxas town and the drilling of the third well in Mt. Apo Natural Park by the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation.

“The IPRA law only served as a tool to legally plunder our ancestral lands.  The law, in its present form, cannot provide the realization and attainment of our rights,” Tolentino pointed out.

Katribu Party-list scored the government and its agency, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), for undermining their cultural rights through the facilitation of eco-tourism projects.  Both, it said, were insensitive to the distinct culture of lumads’ which has been integrated in tour packages for both the local and foreign tourists.

Oftentimes, Katribu said, proponents of large-scale development projects circumvent and undermine the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process.

FPIC is one of IPRA’s salient provisions which required consultations on proposed project before the concerned and affected IP communities.

Katribu said that cases of intimidation, harassment and ostensible deception are commonly used to pressure the IPs to allow the proposed projects.  It also scored the NCIP’s incapacity to defend the lumads in times of “intense military operations,” saying it is “deaf to the rampant human rights violations against the IPs.”

Meanwhile, Katribu denied the allegation that progressive groups under the Makabayan Coalition are fronts of the underground Communist movement.

Just recently, the Peoples Advocacy for Collaboration and Empowerment (Peace), New Guardians for Freedom and Democracy and Pro-Democracy Foundation of the Philippines filed a complaint to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).   The said groups accused Makabayan as part of the Communist movement.

Katribu said that the smear campaign against the progressive coalition heightened after Akbayan, a “Malacañang-backed” party-list, was exposed as “bogus” and was called for Comelec disqualification.

Katribu is a member of Makabayan Coalition and is duly accredited as a party-list by the Comelec since 2009.

“These groups that are spreading anti-communist hysteria and Jurassic intolerance to progressive ideas and organizations remind us of the bygone Hitlerian, McCarthyist and Marcosian eras,” Tolentino said, adding that, the apparent political vilification and red-tagging of their organization is the “most dangerous propaganda” putting the lives of their members and officers in danger.

“The accusation is designed to deny the progressive and marginalized partylists and candidates their fair share in 2013 elections,” Ruby Padilla-Sison, a Makabayan candidate for Kidapawan City Council said as she lambasted the “red-tagging” as “ridiculous and baseless.”

Bibiano Gabo, provincial coordinator of Bayan Muna partylist also lambasted the accusation.  He said, the group Peace could have been “used by the military hierarchy to confuse the people and the electorates.”

“Makabayan, Bayan Muna and the rest of the organizations and party-lists under the coalition are all legitimate organizations, duly-recognized and accredited by the Comelec,” Gabo said.  (Danilda L. Fusilero/

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