NGOs urge city council to pass IPMR ordinance

>> Thursday, December 8, 2016

March. L. Fianza

Last Monday saw a rare occasion in City Hall with invitations extended to non-government men and women who were asked to shed light on issues related to the filling up of the position of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative in the City Council, prior to the approval of a budget for the office that will be occupied soon.
Among those invited to the council were Cordillera People’s Alliance vice chair Ms. Jill Carino and Kathleen Okubo, great granddaughters of Kafagway Chieftain Mateo Carino, Evelyn Afidchao Miranda of Mountain Province, Reynaldo Suello of Pinsao and yours truly.            
The group reiterated in the City Council their appreciation to the IP migrants in Baguio City for issuing a resolution during the Cordillera Elders Assembly (CEA) held last August 29-30, 2016 at the Benguet State University that pushed and expressed support for the Ibaloys to sit as IPMR in the council, in recognition of the original inhabitants of Baguio.
At the same time, they wished the City Council passed the proposed ordinance allocating funds for the position of the IPMR.
Participants in the CEA included the Cordillera Tribal Elders and Leaders represented by Ms. Miranda, consisting of personalities from Benguet, Mountain Province and Kalinga.
In response, the councilors signified their support to the position of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the legislative body and in barangay councils as they fielded questions that were clarified by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and those invited.
At the same time, the Cordillera tribal members who are leaders and elders in their associations, restated their support to Roger Sinot Sr. who was chosen in a selection process last November 4, 2016.
Sinot is an ex-school teacher and Pinsao barangay chairman, and the great grandson of Piraso (one name), one of the original Ibaloy settlers of the Kafagway area. He was selected from among five nominees by an IP assembly consisting of Ibaloy, Kankanaey and Kalanguya tribal members residing in the city of Baguio. 
Former NCIP commission chair Pawid who was also present and who introduced herself as “ZenaidaCarinoMacli-ing Hamada Pawid”, and a descendant of the early Kafagway chieftain Mateo Cariño, urged the council to assert their “power of the purse” function, as it has been a long wait for the IPs in Baguio to have a representative in the legislative body.
By the way, there were allegations that the budget department under the mayor’s office had stated that the money available was only for the honorarium of the IPMR and none for his office and staff, which is contrary to the “power of the purse” function of the City Council.
Although in an incidental meeting with councilor Peter C. Fianza, also a descendant of Mateo Carino, he said there is no problem with the council in appropriating the budget of the IPMR as to his salary, office supplies and staff as this is mandated by law.
Councilor Art Alladiw who proposed the ordinance said, failing to make available the necessary budget as provided in an ordinance is against the law and runs contrary to the provisions of the local government code and the implementing rules of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. 
In the council, questions were fielded by Councilors Leandro Yangot, Edgar Avila, Joel Alangsab, Michael Lawana and Benny Bomogao as to how the selection of the IPMR was conducted even while councilor Fianza believed that this does not need to be discussed in the legislative body as this concerns the NCIP. Vice Mayor Edison Bilog listened attentively.
Councilor Faustino Olowan, chair of the Committee on Laws also observed that there were already some opposition to the selection process even while the chosen IPMR has yet to occupy his seat in the council.
But Atty. Harriet Nazarro-Abyadang of the NCIP Baguio Office explained that the process followed the local and national guidelines that were ratified and signed by the plenary and assembly of Baguio Ibaloys, Kankanaeys and Kalanguya. No exclusion of groups was done as there were rules to follow.
It was made clear by Atty. Abyadang that as history dictates, no Kankanaeys and Kalanguya or any tribe were in possession of lands inside the old Baguio and its boundaries as they only arrived when the Kafagway area was starting to be a market place and trading center, thus becoming the melting pot for lowlanders and different Northern Luzon tribes.
By the way again, a couple of self-styled oppositors said they were stating a “little complaint” because the term-sharing scheme in serving as IPMR is not clear in the guidelines that was ratified by the assembly.
But this statement was not to be believed by those who were invited to the council as this was a shift to a position that was entirely different from what they stated in the letter-petition that they submitted to the offices of the mayor, vice mayor, DILG and NCIP. It was short of saying that they lied straight-faced to the council and the people in the chamber.
Barangay Happy Hallow elders Joseph Sacley and Soriano Palonan also supported the selection process and wished the city council passed the proposed ordinance.
The landmark ruling by American Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes over the case where Mateo Cariño sued the colonizers acknowledged the Native Title which ruled that “lands that were originally occupied in private capacity since time immemorial never became public lands.”
The Baguio area has never been “public” as there were Ibaloy occupants even prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, later the Americans.

Justice Holmes’ recognition of the Native Title based on the situation of ancestral lands in Baguio eventually led to the crafting of the IPRA in 1997.


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