MANILA, Philippines – Lumad and Moro delegates to this year’s Lakbayan of National Minorities stormed the south gate of the House of Representatives on Tuesday morning, Sept. 5 to press a zero allocation and budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and call for its abolition.
The House is currently hearing the budgets of various line agencies of the government, including that of the NCIP.
The group SANDUGO, a national alliance of Lumad and Moro organizations in the Philippines, led the protest action at the gate of the House of Tuesday.
NCIP is under the Office of the President that was created on October 1997 through the consolidation of Senate Bill No. 1728 and House Bill No. 9125 that enacted into law Republic Act 8371, otherwise known as “The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997.”
During the Marcos regime, the office was called the Office of the Presidential Assistant on National Minorities or PANAMIN (1974) and was later split during the time of Cory Aquino (1986) into two offices: one is the Office for Northern Cultural Communities (ONCC), and the other, the Office for Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC).
Jerome Succor Aba, co-chairperson of SANDUGO told reporters that the primary reason for the demand to cut the budget of NCIP and its abolition is due to its failure to serve the interest of the Indigenous People or Lumad in the Philippines.
Instead, Aba, added, NCIP has been serving the interests of large-scale mining companies in the country, instead of addressing the pressing issues and concerns of the Lumad people.
“While national minorities all over the country continue to be displaced by bombings and harassment, it seems like the NCIP has done nothing but to encash their salaries from the government. We are just wasting money on this agency,” he said.
Aba also cited the cases of attacks on Lumad communities, particularly their schools, were not responded by the NCIP.
On Monday, Sept. 4, more than 800 delegates of Lakbayan, led by the Save Our School Network staged a protest in front of the Department of Education office in Pasig and criticized Secretary Leonor Briones for her “continued inaction” to the complaints of harassment against the Lumad schools in Mindanao.
SOS also accused Briones of condoning the attacks against the Lumad schools allegedly by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary groups.
“As inutile as it already is, we can only expect that the NCIP will continue to ‘twist’ indigenous socio-political systems to its interests,” Aba said. (davaotoday.com)