A LUMAD (indigenous people) group has expressed their support for the P1,000 budget allocated by the House of Representatives to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Lawmakers at the Lower House gave only P1,000 funding for 2018 to the NCIP for supposedly failing to fulfill its mandate.
The House also gave the same budget each to the Commission of Human Rights and the Energy Regulatory Commission for the same reason.
According to the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples in a statement released on Sunday, September 17, the move of Congress to defund the NCIP is “consistent with the national minorities under [the group’s] stand to abolish the NCIP and to scrap the Indigenous People’s Rights Act.”
“It is utterly detestable for us national minorities that the NCIP is continually being funded by the people’s money when it is being used to oppress the indigenous peoples,” said Jerome Succor Aba, the Sandugo spokesperson.
“The billions it had spent since it was established has come to naught – indigenous peoples rights are far being protected by this institution,” Aba added.
The NCIP is funded in House Bill 6215 or the General Appropriations Bill in the amount of P1.132 billion, about P470 million of which was allotted to its organizational objective of “Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous People’s Rights Ensured.”
Under this section is the Indigenous People’s Rights Program with an allocation of P100.293 million, while the IP Rights Monitoring of Treaty Obligations has a budget of P14.040 million.
Despite its huge budget in recent years, Aba said tribal community members have continued to suffer from various forms of abuses which he claimed the NCIP had not acted upon.
“Killings, forced evacuations, and other grave human rights violations against the indigenous peoples happen unchecked and unhampered by the NCIP despite all of these funds,” he said.
Since it was institutionalized in 1997, Aba said the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (Ipra) has done more harm than good to the IPs as it had caused division among the ranks of the national minorities.
“For some, it seemed a fruition of the long-sought for recognition of the rights of the [IPs] to ancestral land and to self-determination. However, for most of us, we saw through the IPRA for what it is: a deceptive law that would benefit large business interests,” he added.
The NCIP was created to implement the Ipra, Aba said, as it was mandated to award the Certificate of Ancestral Land Title or CALT, which is one of its primary functions.
“But even in that aspect,” he said, “the NCIP has handed so few [CALT] throughout the years. And, even armed with CALTs or ancestral land claims, it did not stop large-scale mining projects in indigenous lands.”
In fact, Aba added, “it was instrumental in the violation of ancestral land rights. It became a rubberstamp, a legitimizer, of businesses that bereft us of our land and resources.”
Killing of indigenous peoples, numbering to hundreds throughout the years, is splattered in the history of the NCIP, most of them in the context of defense of lands versus the incursion of large-scale mining projects, he said.
“The call to abolish the NCIP and to scrap the Ipra is a long call is wrought in experience and study. Indigenous peoples will look somewhere else in the protection of its rights, because the Ipra is not the answer,” Aba said.
In the Indigenous Peoples’ Agenda submitted by different IP groups to Malacañang at the start of the Duterte administration in 2016, Aba said the national minorities had already expressed their wish to abolish the NCIP and to scrap the Ipra, as they are pushing for “genuine law and agency to protect the rights of the people.”
For its part, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) has agreed that the NCIP deserves the P1,000 budget that was approved by Congress.
“We would be bothered if the work of the NCIP has been beneficial to our communities. But in most of the issues we have met, the NCIP had aggravated the problems in the communities,” said Ailene Villarosa, RMP-NMR advocacy coordinator, in a text message.
It would be better, Villarosa said, “if the government re-channels the budget to projects that would genuinely respect the IP’s right to their lands and to self-determination, and would re-energize their traditional practices and culture.”
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 18, 2017.