MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews /24 July) – Bukidnon may have been the first province in the country to comply with mandatory representation of the indigenous peoples in the municipal, city and provincial level, but such is not the case in the barangay level.
Only three towns – Damulog, Dangcagan and Don Carlos – have representatives from the indigenous peoples sitting in their barangay councils, said Carl O. Binayao, community affairs officer of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Bukidnon office.
He said the rest still do not have a certificate of affirmation (COA) from the NCIP regional office. He noted that most of the IP representatives from the barangays have already complied with the requirements, like documentation during the notification and conduct of consultation and selection, among others.
“But the problem is in the verification made by the lone officer attending to it at the regional office,” he added.
Binayao cited that IP mandatory representatives alleged that the officer is very strict in the procedure in the extent that it had become inconsistent with the guidelines set for it.
Umayamnon Datu Benjamin “Otto” Omao, mandatory representative of the indigenous peoples to the Malaybalay city council, said none of the city’s 46 village chiefs have received their COA so far.
He added that they have complied with the requirements but the procedure of verification is just too slow. Binayao noted that NCIP regional officials have met recently to address the problem.
In March, NCIP Bukidnon announced that the province has become the first province to have complied with the mandatory requirement at all levels of local government.
Mandatory representation is a requirement provided for in Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.
Ma. Shirlene Sario, NCIP Bukidnon provincial officer, said IP representatives have been selected in all of the province’s 464 barangays, 20 of its 22 towns and cities, and one for the whole province, making Bukidnon the first province to do so in all levels
The first mandatory IP representative to the provincial board, Datu Magdaleno Maida Pandian, a Manobo and the municipal tribal chieftain of Maramag town, was selected on March 2 during the first assembly of the IP representatives to the municipal and city councils here.
He now sits as member of the provincial board and chairs the committee on indigenous peoples.
NCIP sources said then that the selection process was mostly bottoms up, except in two towns where previously their municipal representatives have been selected because their municipal tribal councils are active. The NCIP, which assumes a facilitative and documentation role in the selection, has initiated the selection starting in March 2010.
Binayao said although it is ironic that the village representatives, who were first, selected, and who selected municipal or city and provincial representatives are not yet officially members of legislative councils, it does not pose a problem, it does not invalidate the process.
“Being able to select higher officials did not require COA from the mandatory IP representatives. The national guideline for mandatory representation was issued by NCIP in 2009 but most local government units did not implement it until the Department of Interior and Local Government issued Memorandum Circular 2010-119,” Binayao added.
The active and open environment provided by the local government units in Bukidnon with a pledge to appropriate budget, Sario said then.
But Sario said the selection process was left independent to the Lumads based on processes dictated by their customary laws and tradition down to the barangay level.
At the provincial level, Binayao said Datu Maida was chosen using “gilay,” a selection process which involves the datus and baes to drop corn grains on a designated vessel corresponding a candidate tribal leader.
Only datus and baes who are municipal/city IP representatives, municipal/city tribal chieftains, and those who belong to the provincial consultative body of the indigenous peoples, and the ethnographic regional consultative body (ERCB) are qualified to join the selection process.
According to the locally-developed guideline for the mandatory representation, the candidate to become representative must be a natural born Filipino citizen, a registered voter, an IP by blood and recognized leader in an ancestral domain/land or resettled community, and is knowledgeable of customary ways of which he or she is a member.
The guideline also provided that the candidate must be a leader who stands for the well being of the IPs, who has a vision and works for their welfare, someone who protects and preserves the IP culture and traditions, a person who cares for the protection of the environment, a leader who has an honor because of his or her performance and achievements, and is also someone who is knowledgeable of local legislation.
The guidelines also stated that the representative must be non-partisan and can read and write. The guideline, which was developed through consultations with the IP stakeholders, also provided that nomination and confirmation of a mandatory representative is the exclusive right of the IPs in their respective territory without prejudice to their customary laws and practices.
Sario said the province’s feat in mandatory representation addresses the struggle of the IPs for representation in local governance. “But self-governance, another aspiration of the IPs, relies on their readiness,” she added.
She clarified that the representative assumes only a legislative function and the traditional structure of IP governance is retained at the tribal councils.
The IP representative to the provincial board can initiate, sponsor, and support enactment of resolutions and ordinances that recognize, protect, and promote the rights of the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples.
The representative is also tasked to present to the provincial board the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans (ADSDPPs) and other programs, projects, and activities for integration to the Provincial Development Plan and the Annual Investment Plan and other functions. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews).