Surigao Mamanwas push for IP council representation

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/27 Nov) – Members of the Mamanwa tribe in Agusan del Norte and some parts of Surigao del Norte  appealed to the city government to implement the law mandating local government units to provide a seat for Lumad representation in local councils.

The Mamanwas under the Certificate of Ancestral Domain (CADT) claim of the Mainit-Malimono, San Francisco, Sison and Surigao City (MAMASANSISU) and Agusan del Norte appealed to Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas during a break in its capability-building seminar held in his office recently.

The seminar, sponsored by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts was held to equip and train indigenous peoples groups in the region and the whole of Mindanao.

Luzminda Caga, MAMASANSISU secretary and NCCA coordinator for the Surigao cluster, said  local government units (LGUs)  have yet to fully comply the law adding it is only Barangay Mat-i that has a Mamanwa representation in the barangay council.

Under Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples (IP) Rights Act of 1997,  LGUs are mandated to  provide for IP representation in their legislative councils and policy-making bodies, with equal privileges like regular council members.

Section 16 or the Right to Participate in Decision-Making provides that IPs “have the right to participate fully, if they so choose, at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies through procedures determined by them as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous political structures. Consequently, the State shall ensure that the ICCs/IPs shall be given mandatory representation in policy-making bodies and other local legislative councils.”

Early this year, Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo issued a memorandum ordering provincial governors, city and municipal mayors and other local government officials to implement the provision of the law.

Matugas promised to bring the matter to the city council. “Wala man koy problema niana pero kinahanglan man kita musunod usab sa proseso” (We have no problem here but we need to follow the process), he said.

Under the law, LGUs implementing the mandatory provision of Lumad representation in their legislative councils will get an additional 10% increase in their internal revenue allotment (IRA).
This is to ensure lack of funds won’t be made an excuse not to implement the provision.

The Mamanwas also lamented what they refer to as persistent discrimination especially of  its students enrolled in the city’s colleges and universities.

Caga said there are instances when students in boarding houses look down on their sons or daughters. Some still continue to call them “Kongking” which is derogatory to the tribe.
Matugas said biases against them can be eliminated through education and assertion of their rights as IPs.

He said he will also look into the possibility of setting up a dormitory specifically catering to the IPs.

He assured the Mamanwas that the scholarship assistance will continue under his administration despite the reported refusal of some schools to accept them because of the alleged non-payment of debts by the city government.

He said he would find means to address these problems.

“Dako karajaw an ato utang pag-ingkod nato amo na hanapan pa nato ini nan paagi kun unhon. Makasalig lamang kamo na an edukasyon importante kini ug ato kini suportahan” (I owe you a debt of gratitude. Be assured we will address these problems. Education is important and we will continue to support it,” he said. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)