Wanted: ‘independent’ indigenous peoples’ rep

Oct. 05, 2012

“Ang Manrep representante sa mga lumad ug angayan lang nga gawasnon siya sa mga pagpanghilabot sa mga politiko (Manrep represents the lumads and it’s just proper that he’s free from the meddling of politicians).” — Makilala town’s Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Bienvenido Macalos, a Bawa-Bagobo

Davao Today

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) office and ethnic groups here call on politicians not to meddle in their efforts to have mandatory representations in local legislative councils across the province.

NCIP Provincial Officer Eric Raz told davaotoday.com that the selection process of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives (IP-MR) should be “free from the intervention of politicians” and “allow them (IP community) to fully and freely exercise their customary laws.”

“If they are going to meddle, they would be liable to the Pouvian to Gantangan, a customary law of the Manobo tribe equal to the government’s Criminal Law,” Raz said.

“Ang Manrep representante sa mga lumad ug angayan lang nga gawasnon siya sa mga pagpanghilabot sa mga politiko (Manrep represents the lumads and it’s just proper that he’s free from the meddling of politicians),” Makilala town’s IP-MR

Bienvenido Macalos, a Bawa-Bagobo, said in an interview by davaotoday.com.

Their statements came after reports pointed to some politicians of meddling in the selection of IP-MRs.  But Raz declined to confirm this.  He said, he was saddened with the news, though.

The guidelines clearly stated that the selection process will be done solely and freely by the IP communities, Raz said.

Under the guidelines, focal persons from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and concerned Local Government Unit (LGU) are required to attend the selection of IP-MR as process observers.

Raz said that even the NCIP office is limited to offering technical assistance only during the selection process.

The IP-MR in local legislative councils is mandated under the Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.  This particular provision is said to be the government’s breakthrough in mainstreaming the issues and welfare of the indigenous peoples.

For Macalos, his being an IP-MR in Makilala town provided them “a fair venue” in educating the local councils and LGUs on issues concerning the IPs customary and fundamental rights like the IPRA, the Free and Prior Informed Consent and the IP’s framework of development.

“With my representation in the council, I can now interpolate proposed resolutions that have direct or indirect effects to the IPs. I can even suggest projects acceptable to the IPs and even have the privilege of information with regards to the fiscal management of the LGU,” Macalos said.

For Rodney Fuerte, Chairman of the Municipal Federation of Tribal Councils (MFTC) in Makilala, the provision of IP-MR provided them “voice in the legislative council.”

MFTC has over 13,000 lumad-members from the tribes of Bawa-Bagobo, Manobo, B’laan, Kaulo, T’boli and Igorot.  It covers 27 villages in Makilala town.

“For them to remain grounded in their representation, our IP-MR must always exercise their customary practices like community consultations before giving his vote on resolutions discussed at the council,” Raz said.

Meanwhile, various IP communities in the province are set to seek their mandatory representations at the village councils across the province, the NCIP office reported.

Raz said that a total of 53 village-level IP-MR applications in the province are being processed and validated: 22 from Kidapawan City; 13 from Makilala town; and 18 from Arakan town.

To date, NCIP reported that city/municipal IP-MR in the towns of Arakan, Makilala, Matalam and Magpet and in the city of Kidapawan are already embedded in their respective legislative councils.

Meanwhile, endorsee-applicants from the towns of Roxas, Antipas, Tulunan and M’lang were held in abeyance after the NCIP and the DILG issued a Joint Circular late last year which required the determination of the minimum threshold of IP population in one particular LGU.

Under the Local Government Code, the total population of the LGU shall be divided by the number of the Sanggunian members and its quotient shall serve as the minimum number required to the IP community to have a seat in the local Sanggunians,” the joint circular stated.  (Danilda L. Fusilero/davaotoday.com)

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