SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: NCIP: Poor, classy agency

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 02 September) – Back in 2005, the nongovernment organization I used to work with assisted the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe in Malaybalay City in the processing of their application for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). As it went along, I realized that applying for a CADT is a tedious, costly process, which gave me the impression that it has become another form of oppression for Lumads (indigenous peoples of Mindanao) who don’t have the resources for it.

I already lost count of the number of community meetings, consultations with neighboring tribal communities, government agencies and various stakeholders we held to obtain consensus and resolve and/or preempt conflicts related to the claim. This is aside from tracing the genealogies of the different clans comprising the tribe, writing their history as narrated by the elders, gathering proof of “since time immemorial” possession of the land, documenting cultural practices, among others.

Besides, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) required “validation sessions” with the community on the data and information. Nothing wrong with that except that the NCIP required 800 pesos per day in honorarium for each of their employee who attended those sessions. Upon learning this, I exclaimed to my officemates in disgust, “Sa ato pa, kung walay kwarta ang tribu, wala gyuy mahitabo sa ilang claim (So, if the tribe has no money, nothing will happen to their claim)?”

NCIP-Bukidnon made it clear to us that as per policy each provincial office could only process one CADT application per year owing to “budgetary limits.” But what incensed me is that they seemed unperturbed over exacting a pound of flesh from an impoverished community.

Fortunately for the claimant tribe, some foreign donors granted funds for the CADT application. Those funds defrayed the activities mentioned above as well as, the boundary survey (including honoraria for the NCIP surveyors from Manila, and materials and labor for the concrete boundary markers around the roughly 4,500-hectare ancestral domain), and printing of documents.

Now, here comes the audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) flagging the NCIP regional office in Caraga for spending P1,064,219.06 for a workshop with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

COA said the meals and accommodations for the workshop, held at Amontay Beach Resort in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte in November 2020, “were not duly supported with sufficient and complete documentations… casting doubts on the propriety and regularity of the transaction… Moreover, the procurement was not done through a competitive public bidding.”

“Further scrutiny of the attendance sheet disclosed that there are alterations made with the date, and there are names listed that did not bear signatures of the participants,” COA said.

“The number of accommodations should have been equal to the number of participants indicated per meal or lower but not higher,” the agency added.

Last year, COA also asked the NCIP to justify its expenses amounting to P4.815 million in 2019 which state auditors said were mostly spent in activities conducted in high-end hotels and restaurants, according to an abs-cbn.com report published on Nov. 4, 2020.

“In the 2019 audit on the NCIP, state auditors noted that P3,835,897.50 were spent in 2018, and P979,695.93 in 2019 for meals and accommodations for various programs and activities of the agency in Region 10,” the report said. (Note: Region 10 includes Bukidnon.)

“It was observed that the said activities were mostly conducted at high-end hotels and restaurants where the food and accommodation was relatively high compared to other alternative venues,” the COA said.

Since the NCIP would scrimp when it comes to financing CADT claims, maybe we should ask if holding activities in those high-end venues had contributed more to uplifting the conditions of Lumads.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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