Tribal groups to NCIP: Affirm city council rep

>> Thursday, October 12, 2017

BAGUIO CITY – The biggest indigenous groups in the Cordillera and this city assailed the National Commission on Indigenous peoples for not issuing the certificate of affirmation to Roger D. Sinot, the indigenous peoples mandatory representative-elect so he could perform his duties as part of the city council.
Sinot was elected IPMR November last year but according to the IP groups, the NCIP, particularly its regional director Roland Calde, refused to issue the certification.
This, they said, even if all indigenous and legal processes prescribed by the NCIP itself have been complied with.
A statement was released by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA), Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU) Metro-Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Assembly (MBTELA) here Oct. 6 urging the NCIP to issue the certificate of affirmation to Sinot.
“It has been 18 years since the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) was enacted in 1997. Yet, until today, the indigenous peoples of Baguio continue to be denied their right to representation in the City Council,” the groups said in their collective statement.
“This obvious gap in the recognition of indigenous peoples rights prompted the Cordillera Elders Summit held on August 30, 2016 to pass a resolution calling for the selection of the first Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Baguio City. The resolution declared that the IPMR of Baguio should come from the Ibaloi in recognition of the fact that the Ibaloi were the original inhabitants and owners of the ancestral land that is now Baguio City.
“Further, the resolution called on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to facilitate the process through the formulation of local guidelines for selection determined by the indigenous peoples themselves. This resolution of indigenous elders in the Cordillera pushed the NCIP Baguio Service Center to initiate the process of drafting the local guidelines for IPMR selection.”
The groups said what followed was a series of meetings, information and education campaign, and assemblies of indigenous peoples held in October 2016 to draft the local guidelines with the support of NCIP.  “The activities culminated in a historic day on Nov. 4, 2017 when more than 300 Ibalois ratified the local guidelines and voted to select the first IPMR of Baguio City.  Mr. Roger Sinot, Sr. emerged as the duly elected IPMR.
“However, the bid to finally have an IP representative in the City Council was held back when certain individuals filed a protest on November 15, 2016 on the grounds that the Kalanguya and Kankanaey people of Baguio had not been informed nor involved in the selection process. This allegation was later disproven. An addendum to the protest was filed in January 2017, claiming that the selected IPMR was not qualified. The grounds cited for his disqualification were also later debunked.
“The regional director of NCIP-CAR then formed a Special Regional Review Body (SRRB) to review the selection process and look into the grounds of the protest.
“The findings of this body upheld that (1) the earlier selection process was in order; (2) the protesters/complainants did not have the personality to complain based on the local guidelines; and (3) recommended that the NCIP-CAR issue a Certificate of Affirmation to the duly selected IPMR.
Still, NCIP-CAR Calde reportedly refused to issue a Certificate of Affirmation despite numerous resolutions of different organizations supporting the selection of Sinot and failed to issue a clear written decision regarding the protest.
Instead, the NCIP handpicked a few Ibaloi personalities to convene another assembly of indigenous peoples on June 24 to supposedly return the issue for the community to resolve according to the customary practice of _tabtaval_ or _tongtong.
The assembly of June24 disregarded the existing Baguio Council of Elders and Leaders and formed yet another set of Council of Elders and Leaders to try to resolve the protest.
In the meeting on June 27, some members of the newly formed Council of Elders and Leaders were assigned to meet with the selected IPMR to clarify the issues mentioned in the protest.
The report that came out of the meeting on June 27 had the same recommendation:  that a Certificate of Affirmation be issued to the duly selected IPMR (Sinot).  Despite this, the NCIP-CAR regional director took no action on the matter.
On August 8, the Metro-Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Assembly (MBTELA) reportedly held its 6th General Assembly.  
They discussed among other matters, the Baguio IPMR issue. The consensus reached during the assembly was to put the IPMR issue to rest by demanding the issuance of the long-overdue Certificate of Affirmation in order to stop the brewing disunity causing division among the indigenous peoples of Baguio.
This strong appeal to the NCIP was contained in a resolution that was submitted to the NCIP-CAR and Central Office.
Still the NCIP regional director reportedly failed to act on the issue. Thus the Ibalois sought an audience with NCIP Commissioner for the Cordillera Region Basilio Wandag on Sept. 10, to raise their sentiments.
Wandag said that he would take up the matter with the NCIP regional director, still with no result.
On Sept. 23, the MBTELA and IBAGIW jointly called for a general assembly of ICCs/IPs in Baguio including the Ibalois and other ethnolinguistic groups.
They signed a certificate of recognition and administered an oath of office as IPMR to Sinot.
The results of the assembly were conveyed to the NCIP-CAR. A group of indigenous elders traveled to Manila on the first week of October to seek the intervention of NCIP Chairperson of the Commission En Banc lawyer Leonor Oralde-Quintayo.
Yet these efforts reportedly failed too, as the NCIP officials concerned passed the buck to others who were supposedly responsible but who were conveniently unavailable at the time.
On Oct. 7, the NCIP convened another assembly of ICC/IPs in Baguio, on to discuss the matter. The groups said this ignored previous assemblies and meetings that have transpired.
The purpose of the assembly was supposedly to present the decision of the Council of Elders/Leaders constituted on June 24 on the protest/opposition to the selected IPMR and to conduct a consultation and dialogue.
The holding of the assembly, they said, further polarized the indigenous peoples of Baguio between those who upheld the earlier process of selection and those who opposed the selection of Sinot.
This latest assembly reportedly fanned the disunity and discontent among the people of Baguio by insisting on giving credence to the protest filed by unqualified persons.
During the assembly, it was known there were only reportedly three persons who wanted to derail the assumption of Sinot to the city council as IPMR since they themselves wanted the position. One was reportedly a lackey of a top city official and two Ibaloi lawyers.
The three didn’t insist on another election for the IPMR after Sinot and the council of elders told them an election was held already and the right process was done.
Earlier during the meeting, the group of Sinot complained the NCIP official who was purportedly tasked by Calde to preside over proceedings identified as Abeline Cerilo, head of NCIP Itogon Service Center didn’t give enough time to them to explain circumstances and processes which led to Sinot’s election.
A supporter of one of the lawyers even reportedly took the microphone from MB-TEA president Evelyn Miranda while she was saying the Ibalois should unite considering other tribal groups have signified their support for the first Ibaloi IPMR in Baguio.
This made Sinot and council of elders to insist that their side should be heard.
To date, the groups said they are still waiting for action from the NCIP Central Office.

“As the NCIP drags its feet on issuing the certification of the affirmation for the selected IPMR, the peoples of Baguio are denied their rightful representation in the city council,” the groups said in their statement.  check


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