Baguio, birth place of Native Title Doctrine could be its death bed

>> Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Alfred P. Dizon

(Rocky Ngalob, information officer of the Cordillera regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples writes this week’s piece) 
Baguio, the birth place of the Native Title doctrine and arguably Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) could be its death bed.
In this year’s recently concluded celebration of the advancement of rights and collective well-being of indigenous peoples through the annual observance of the National Indigenous Peoples Day in the Philippines, the NCIP– Cordillera Administrative Region registered its comments and remarks to the growing confusion spreading throughout the indigenous peoples of Baguio; that the City of Baguio is beyond the coverage of Republic Act 8371 or widely known as Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
NCIP-CAR was alarmed of the erroneous information being planted among the IPs’ consciousness.
If not corrected, it would lead IPs in the city in limbo. And if tolerated, such erroneous information will form fragments of the indigenous peoples’ psyche thus adversely revising our rich history.
This sprang from the pending case of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Baguio before our regular courts which, by virtue of the Sub Judice rule, the author is prohibited to comment particularly on the merits of the case.
Nonetheless, there were issues triggered in aid of answers that is beyond the IPMR issue. Thus, this humble narrative.
Claiming that Baguio is beyond the coverage of IPRA, with an intent of excluding the IPs from the due rights bestowed by the law, is creating a dangerous path for IPs of Baguio.
The IPs of Baguio including IPs throughout the nation know too well that IPRA, a revolutionary law that lifted the then discriminated IPs above marginalization, sprouted when an Ibaloi native in the person of Mateo Carino went before the highest court of the highest country (USA) to question and claimed due recognition over his land against a feudalistic law imposed by our foreign colonizers.
Such act of defiance gave birth to the principle of the “Native Title Doctrine,” a victory, which we, IPs, and other IPs including those across our nation’s borders, hold dear.
IPRA was also the only legislation that specifically provided for right of indigenous peoples to determine their own development, even if there was a qualification in the 1987 Constitution that such development of communities must be in accordance with national development.
The law specifically states; “The State recognizes the inherent right of ICCs/IPs to self-governance and self-determination and respects the integrity of their values, practices and institutions. Consequently, the State shall guarantee the rights of ICCs/IPs to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
Ideally, this would mean that indigenous peoples do not only have the power to participate in decision-making processes of the State, but going beyond that, they themselves have the power to determine the fates of their territories and their lives.
Our history dictates that from birth, towards the enactment, Baguio played an essential role to IPRA’s realization. To think that Baguio is outside the coverage of IPRA is like stripping the IPs of Baguio off their rights -- rights which were fought and asserted by their ancestors.
We reduce them to mere spectators separated from rest of the IPs throughout the nation enjoying the privileges of the law they have greatly contributed in achieving -- the very law which sprouted from Baguio. Worse, were rendering them powerless against the ever evolving forms of injustices deeply rooted in the centuries old institutionalized feudalistic type of resource management.   
Section 78 of IPRA stating; “The City of Baguio shall remain to be governed by its Charter and all lands proclaimed as part of its townsite reservation shall remain as such until otherwise reclassified by appropriate legislation: Provided, That prior land rights and titles recognized and/or acquired through any judicial, administrative or other processes before the effectivity of this Act shall remain valid: Provided, further, That this provision shall not apply to any territory which becomes part of the City of Baguio after the effectivity of this Act”, should not be interpreted as an exclusionary provision of Baguio under the coverage of IPRA.
In fact, the high court stated that; “The foregoing provision indeed states that Baguio City is governed by its own charter. Its exemption from the IPRA, however, cannot ipso facto be deduced because the law concedes the validity of prior land rights recognized or acquired through any process before its effectivity. The IPRA demands that the city’s charter respect the validity of these recognized land rights and titles”.
The high court expressly made such statement in order to maintain the true spirit and wisdom of IPRA. IPRA did not intend to exclude Baguio from its coverage while it embraces others. A law that was created to cure an illness of discrimination, for sure, was not intended to be enacted in order to inflict another. More so, the law did not intend to sever its ties from its place of origin. The very place where the law was trained to crawl, walk and was reared to fight for the rights due for the IPs.
The challenge currently being faced by IPRA in Baguio is not the first of its kind. In fact, IPRA has met challenges even greater, one that challenged its constitutionality. But no matter how great the challenges were, IPRA emerged as the victor. In these challenges, particularly on the one being currently impressed to the IPs of Baguio, one thing is for sure; it is not IPRA that is being tested.
Nor the rights of indigenous peoples, as these rights have not ceased to exist, and are only awaiting society’s ability to recognize them. What is currently on trial is the willingness of our bureaucracy and people seated in power to finally rid themselves of prejudices and misplaced fears.
The IPs, especially those who believed and fought for IPRA, their crusade did not end with the enactment of IPRA in 1997.
They are mindful that their crusade is a continuous struggle to rid our nation the discrimination introduced by our colonizers that’s now institutionalized in our bureaucracy. It is about changing mindsets and prejudices.


a disheartened Descendant of the Original Inhabitants of Kafagway now Baguio City November 20, 2019 at 5:15 PM  

VERY WELL SAID............and thanks to the writer of this least you have come to your right senses.......and and why can't we use or exercise the rights of a "Native title" that was born in our very land Baguio city where other countries nations could use or enjoy out of it? Is it just because of the "vested" interest of Just TWO PEOPLE" who inserted that provision or section in the IPRA law during its laboring time in the congress....which is not included by the author of this very IPRA LAW...or say during the conception of said law?........I challenge the LAWYERS/SUPREME COURT SPECIFICALLY JUDGE CARPIO to review her decision and come out to a better judgement and decision.......thank a pure Ibaloi by birth of my great great great grandfathers who are the original inhabitants of Kafagway in Benguet Province, Philippines unfortunately now called Baguio City because of the injustice done by "foreigners" to the Indigenous People of said locality to steal away their lands before them... aside from installing/imposing foreign laws to those kind hearted take it away from them by force.....when you could say that killing the animals of the Indigenous people in Kafagway,Benguet,
Philippines, their means of livelihood....for these foreigners to be able to drive then away these Ibaloi's from their "abode"........Then now these people coming from different parts of the Philippines are happily continuing to do injustice to their co-Filipinos who happens to be a part of Indigenous People's? What kind of people are you? Do you consider yourself "superiors" that even though you are educated by schools but then your heart became so "GREEDY"... and consider yourself 'UNEDUCATED OR UNLEARNED"...THAT you take advantage of others? You are just like the savages who don't have any education at sad to say but the constitution of the Philippines states that you respect the rights of the Indigenous People but here in this latest decision of Judge CARPIO....proactively DISRESPECT the very IP's or the very IBALOI's Indigenous People of Baguio City, once called Kafagway in Benguet......

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