Their action, she added, was “unfit for public officials whose sworn duty is to serve the public who elected them to office.”
“The honorable councilors of Kabasalan, except Councilors Ben Palanas and Romeo Laman, left us in the cold unceremoniously” last Wednesday when around 20 Subanen tribal chieftains coming from the remote barangays came to attend the regular session of the local council, Baya said.
She added that the elderly tribal chieftains led by Datu Labi Jose Cayon and Provincial Board Member Wilfredo Sanggayan trooped to the Sangguniang Bayan “to ask, if allowed, the reconsideration of its earlier decision to ease out Timuay Libon Rosiana Adan from being the indigenous peoples’ (IP) representative” to the local council. Datu Labi is a Subanen title, which means that the holder is the head of all datus in the territory.
Adan was officially selected by the indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) in the municipality as their representative to the local council by virtue of Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. Sanggayan, who is also the official IP representative to the provincial board, holds the distinction as the first IP representative to the provincial board throughout the country.
Section 16 of IPRA stipulates that “the ICCs/ IPs shall be given mandatory representation in policy-making bodies and other local legislative councils”.
Last month, however, the local council of Kabasalan decided to stop Adan’s representation and created instead the position of Municipal Indigenous Peoples Coordinator.
Adan alleged that Councilor Yoyong Cinco led her ouster in complete “defiance of what the IPRA had mandated.”
“The IP community selected me as their voice in the local council and they alone have the power to remove me from office,” the teary-eyed elderly female tribal leader declared.
The municipal tribal chieftains were “unanimous in their decision” to support Adan and planned to ask the local council to reconsider its decision during its regular session, which is held on Wednesdays.
“It is the ultimate insult hurled upon us when some local council members left the session hall, knowing a number of tribal chieftains were already waiting for them to start their session,” Baya, who was with the group, lamented.
Baya alleged that six councilors arrived at the venue but “disappeared like bubbles before our own eyes except for two councilors.”
“It was then that the secretary of the local council informed us that the session will not push through for there was no quorum,” Baya said. The internal rules of procedure of the local council requires simple majority to constitute a quorum.
Councilors Palanas and Laman, who were left in the session hall, agreed to talk to the tribal chieftains on behalf of the other local council members.
During the exchange, Baya poured out how she was “deeply hurt by the actuations of the honorable councilors who appeared to be insensitive and callous enough not to understand the plight of the indigenous peoples.”
The two councilors pledged to arrange a dialogue next Wednesday between the tribal chieftains and the councilors.
“We will continue to advocate for the full implementation of IPRA, especially the mandatory IP representation to the different sanggunians no matter what cost it may take,” Baya said.
Kabasalan’s 16 of 29 barangays are predominantly Subanen.
The town, situated 20 kilometers northeast from here, is a third class municipality with a population of 50,000 based on the 2000 census. (Antonio M. Manaytay / MindaNews contributor)