MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/8 March) – Bukidnon is becoming the first province in the country to comply with mandatory representation of the indigenous peoples in all levels of local governance, a requirement provided for by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
Ma. Shirlene Sario, provincial officer of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said IP representatives have been selected in all of the province’s 462 barangays, 20 of its 22 towns and cities, and one for the whole province, making it the first province to do so in all levels as provided in Section 16 of Republic Act 8371 or the IPRA of 1997.
The NCIP Bukidnon office clarified that the selection of the IP representatives of the municipalities of Kadingilan, Kibawe, and San Fernando “are in progress.”
The first mandatory IP representative to the provincial board, Datu Magdaleno Maida Pandian, a Manobo and the municipal tribal chieftain of Maramag, was selected on March 2 during the first assembly of the IP representatives to the municipal and city councils here.
Sario said the selection process was mostly from the barangay level going up, except in two towns where previously their municipal representatives have been selected because their municipal tribal council are active. The NCIP, which assumes a facilitative and documentation role in the selection, has initiated the selection in March 2010.
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.
Sario cited the active and open environment provided by the local government units in Bukidnon with a pledge to appropriate budget.
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, Carl Binayao, an NCIP Bukidnon community affairs officer, said Datu Maida was chosen using the customary “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 IP representatives in the municipal/city, tribal chieftains in the municipal/city, members of the Provincial Consultative Body of the indigenous peoples and the Ethnographic Regional Consultative body (ERCB) are qualified to join the selection process.
The selection body chose Datu Maida over six other candidates, which include Bae Inatlawan of the Bukidnon Daraghuyan tribe and Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway.
The selected IP representatives in the municipal, city and provincial levels took their oath before the provincial board Wednesday but they can only officially sit as soon as NCIP regional director Pinky Grace Pabelic issues a certificate of affirmation, after they comply with the requirements.
According to the locally developed guideline for the mandatory representation, each candidate 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, protects and preserves the IP culture and traditions, cares for the protection of the environment, who has honor because of his or her performance and achievements, and 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)