“Far from protecting the Lumad, the NCIP is the primary arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in depriving indigenous peoples of their rights.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Hundreds of Lumád stormed the office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Quezon City on Oct. 29, calling for the abolition of the agency and repeal of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra) which created the agency 18 years ago.
The protesters, led by the Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) and the #Manilakbayan2015, said the NCIP had only served government counterinsurgency programs that attack the indigenous peoples who defend their ancestral territories.
“Far from protecting the Lumad, the NCIP is the primary arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in depriving indigenous peoples of their rights,” said Jomorito Goaynon, or Datu Imbanwag, Kalumbay chairperson and first nominee of the Sulong Katribu partylist.
In a symbolic shutting down of the agency, a group of Lumád leaders posted a notice of closure at the NCIP office door on the 2nd floor of the N.Dela Merced building along West Avenue.
“Let it be known here today that the Lumád is closing this office, on charges that it has been the Aquino administration’s tool to legitimize militarization, Lumád killings and the formation of paramilitaries that commit human rights violations,” said Goaynon.
A brief commotion ensued when a security guard at the ground floor reached for his sidearm to stop the Lumád leaders from coming in. This angered the protesters, and the guard tried to run away, but was pursued. He eventually raised his arms to yield, and the heated protesters then subsided.
“We only want to talk, because we are being killed in our communities, and you will try to pull out a gun on us?” said Aida Seisa, Bagobo leader of Southern Mindanao.
Kakay Tolentino of Katribu scoffed at the sign outside the NCIP office, about a mini-fair and “showcase” of indigenous products. “Bentador ng katutubo (traitor to the indigenous), that’s what NCIP is, selling us out to foreign, mining and power companies,” she said.
‘Tool vs indigenous peoples’
During the program outside the NCIP, Lumád leaders from various Mindanao regions spoke about how the NCIP had tried to bribe, threaten and coerce Lumad tribes to manipulate the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process in favor of projects of big foreign companies in mining, energy, and agribusiness.
Minda Dalinan, Kaluhhamin secretary general, said the NCIP officials in Sultan Kudarat branded Lumád leaders as New People’s Army (NPA) supporters because they refused to give FPIC on a mining project.
The Lumad leaders said not only has the NCIP kept silent on the human rights violations, in many cases, NCIP offcials are complicit with the AFP and some local officials in the formation of Lumád paramilitary groups which conduct terror operations in communities opposed to such projects.
A total of 72 indigenous peoples have been killed under President Aquino’s term, 58 of them Lumád.
In its enactment, Ipra was hailed as a landmark legislation that will recognize the ancestral domains of indigenous tribes. The NCIP was created under the Ipra, with the mandate to facilitate the FPIC process to ensure that the will of the indigenous peoples prevail, if companies intend to implement projects in their ancestral domains.
“Its (Ipra’s) very existence is an insult, for the Lumad owned their ancestral lands from the beginning, and have no obligation to comply with expensive state-imposed procedures that give bogus recognition to the rights of the Lumád,” Goaynon said.