‘Indigenous peoples law violated our collective rights’

Disagreeing with President Duterte, indigenous groups said the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act and the NCIP should be scrapped.

By DEE AYROSO
Bulatlat

MANILA – Indigenous peoples groups are asking President Duterte to repeal the 19-year-old Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra), and abolish the agency it created, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which, they said, both aided in the plunder of indigenous territories and bastardization of their culture.

In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25, Duterte prodded indigenous peoples to make use of the law: “To our brothers, I have this to say: The government has issued you the Ancestral Certificates Domain Title covering vast tracts of land especially in the island of Mindanao. You have the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to protect you and to assist you. Government has given you the tool, the legal tool to improve yourself financially, economically and socially. Make use of your ancestral domain. Do not let it remain idle.”

On the contrary, indigenous groups have long called to scrap Ipra, which, they said, violated their collective right, failed to protect their rights and welfare, much less respect their right to self-determination.

The Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) said Ipra was used as a tool by local and foreign companies that encroached in indigenous lands all over the country. In Mindanao, thousands of Lumád have been displaced by agro-business plantations covering at least 700,000 hectares, while big mining corporations have encroached in some 500,000 hectares of ancestral lands, said Piya Macliing Malayao, Katribu secretary general.

“The law has eased and legalized plunder and ancestral land-grabbing of capitalist corporations,” she said.

Instead of enabling indigenous communities to protect their lands, the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADTs) were issued to transfer ownership of vast tracts of ancestral lands under more compromising tribal leaders who sign agreements with companies to exploit the land.

“The NCIP played no role in stopping the entry of these projects despite the clear and iterant rejection of indigenous peoples,” Malayao said.

Ironically, development efforts by indigenous communities, such as alternative schools and livelihood cooperatives have come under attack from state forces and paramilitary groups, which brand them as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Katribu said NCIP consented, and even conferred titles on leaders of Lumád paramilitary groups that sow terror in communities, such as the New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (Nipar), which attacked a community in Bukidnon on July 30, killing a pregnant woman and injuring seven others.

NCIP officer-in-charge Director Lee Arroyo (seated at left, wearing glasses) and lawyer Edwin Caliba, executive assistant to the NCIP chairperson (seated, second to right, in navy blue polo). The NCIP officials and Lumad leaders talked outside the building of the office (Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)
NCIP officer-in-charge Director Lee Arroyo (seated at left, wearing glasses) and lawyer Edwin Caliba, executive assistant to the NCIP chairperson (seated, second to right, in navy blue polo). The NCIP officials and Lumad leaders talked outside the building of the office (Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

The Ipra requires any project or group that enters indigenous territories to get the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the tribal community. Katribu said this process has been manipulated by scrupulous NCIP officials, to favor mining, energy and agribusiness companies.

’NCIP liable for killings and attacks on indigenous peoples’

To raise their complaints, on July 27, hundreds of Lumád who were part of the Manilakbayan people’s caravan, joined a picket at the NCIP office along West Avenue in Quezon City. The Lumád leaders were faced by NCIP officer-in-charge Director Lee Arroyo and lawyer Edwin Caliba, the executive assistant to the NCIP chairperson, who listened and took note of the complaints of the leaders from Mindanao regions.

Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of Kalumaran, said NCIP officials have been known to deceive, bribe and manipulate tribal elders in the FPIC process.

“They will treat the elders to lunch, at some restaurant or hotel, and afterwards, they will bring out some papers to get their signature,” Ogan said. In some cases, prostitutes were used as bribe to tribal leaders, he said.

If the bribery and deception failed, the paramilitary and state forces come in. Many indigenous leaders who became victims of extrajudicial killings have opposed the entry of destructive projects in their lands. Katribu said the NCIP did nothing to stop the recruitment of indigenous peoples into paramilitary groups, and worse, even anointed military officials as honorary datus (tribal chieftains), to be able to impose government programs on the tribes.

“They are arming and training indigenous peoples to be an integral part of their killing machines…This is an absolute bastardization of our culture and a desperate attempt to destroy the unity and sense of collectiveness of the indigenous communities,” Malayao said.
“We hold the NCIP liable for the killings and human rights violations afflicted on indigenous peoples,” she said.

(Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)
(Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

Eufemia Cullamat, council member of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), said NCIP officials in Surigao del Sur have ignored the killings and attacks in the communities by Lumád paramilitary men, as they merely attributed these to “tribal war” and a
tampuda (tribal peace pact) problem.

“The NCIP office is just above our evacuation center, but they have ignored us,” Cullamat told Bulatlat. Some 2,000 Manobo evacuees are still staying at the Tandag City Provincial Sports complex, almost a year since three leaders were killed in Lianga.

She said paramilitary leaders flaunt their “legitimacy” because they are the ones recognized by NCIP, despite their involvement in crimes against indigenous communities.

FPIC manipulation

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), in its 2014 position paper calling for Ipra’s repeal and the NCIP abolition, cites the NCIP’s manipulation of the FPIC process in energy projects, such as for Chevron in Guinaang, Kalinga province; Hedcor in Sabangan and Philcarbon in Sagada, both in Mountain Province.

The CPA also cited manipulation of the FPIC process in favor of mining companies, such as for Royalco in Bakun, Benguet; and for the expansion of Lepanto and the conversion of its Minerals Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA) into a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) in Mankayan, also in Benguet.

The criticisms against NCIP is validated by a 2011 study on the NCIP by University of the Philippines-Baguio College of Social Sciences, entitled Unbundling rights: state and indigenous communities relations, which cited the agency’s mismanagement of funds, issuance of CADTs to mining companies, and assimilation of indigenous communities into the government legal framework, instead of strengthening the customary political structure.

In its five-point agenda to be issued next week, Katribu calls for the enactment of a new law that will protect indigenous resources and culture.()

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