ONE legacy many local government executives remember the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo for was his DILG Memorandum Circular 2010-119 for all local government units (LGUs) to implement one provision in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 that has conveniently been ignored – the Indigenous Peoples Mandated Representative (IPMR) in all legislative bodies.
Chapter IV (Right to Self-governance and empowerment) Section 16 of the Ipra Law states:
“Right to Participate in Decision-Making. — ICCs/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.”
The five-day workshop held at the Mergrande Beach Resort just last week revolved around this.
As Father Albert E. Alejo SJ, the brain behind the workshop, has been ruing about, mere representation is not enough if that representation does not carry the voice of the people represented. For indigenous peoples who for so long has not been represented, being elevated to the halls of Municipal Councils and City Councils can be overwhelming. Participating actively and pushing for a clear IP agenda in those councils will require some communication and policy-making skills.
Thus, Salig-Lumad for Strengthening Advocacy of Lumads in Government.
It has seven major objectives:
For the IPMR’s to gain understanding of the Indigenous People’s Reform Act framework for development;
Acquire knowledge on how mainstreamed government works and its interface with indigenous governance systems;
Develop functional skills in understanding government budget and financial processes;
Enhance leadership skills required of their roles and functions as sectoral representatives;
Appreciate the principles and concepts of good governance and how they can contribute to its practice and promotion;
Make resolutions on how best they can hold on to their cultural identity in the realm of mainstream governance, and;
Formulate a draft IP Agenda that they will promote and advocate in the local legislative councils.
The idea impressed Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, he agreed to fund the workshop and plans to replicate these in other regions where there are IPs, as well.
The output of this workshop is then a valuable lesson for all others to learn from.
Among the more than 30 municipal, city, and provincial IPMRs from Region 11 who attended, Datu Daniel Pagantupan of the Mandaya tribe of New Bataan, Compostela Valley, had the longest experience and tenure, having been appointed and given the vote of confidence through consensus of the tribal members since 2005.
Still, he admits that the workshop was an eye-opener.
“Nagbigay ng enlightenment sa amin lalo na sa good governance,” he told Sun.Star Davao.
He also pointed out that while New Bataan has had an IPMR since 2005, the first ever he said, the same has not been implemented at the barangay level nationwide.
IPs, specifically the non-Islamized lumads, unlike the Moro people, have for so long been relegated to the sidelines and are thus incapacitated in pushing their own agenda to mainstream governance.
Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) senior vice president for programs Magdalena L. Mendoza said that the program, which was hatched by the DAP in cooperation with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) want to build the capacity of the lumad leaders to craft policies that most benefit their people in these legislative bodies.
“Para pwedeng makipagsabayan sa mga Moro, sa ibang mambabatas (so they can be at par with the Moro and all other legislators),” she said.
The workshop trained them how to make programs representative of their issues, how parliamentary procedure works, how to scrutinize budgets and check if key agencies are responding to the needs of the indigenous communities, she added.
The participants even had a mock session at the Davao City Council session hall, which the participants enjoyed a lot.
Datu Bernardo Angcong Limikid of Maragusan in Compostela Valley said he found most useful was he practice on parliamentary procedures.
Taking oath as Maragusan’s IPMR just last February 2013, he said, he found council sessions hurried and very cursory.
“Hindi napapag-usapan ng malalim ang mga bagaybagay. Hindi tulad ng nakasanayan (Issues are not discussed in-depth, unlike how we are used to),” he said. Among lumads, they will sit down and tackle an issue or a problem for very long hours and will not normally break up until the issue of problem is resolved. This is not so in the municipal council, he said, where items in the agenda are read and then shelved for discussion later; and items discussed are many times left without an action program on hand.
He also found very important the inputs on their basic rights over their ancestral domain specifically with regards the environment.
The Mansakas have a certificate of ancestral comain title (CADT) over 141,000 hectares in six neighboring municipalities, Maragusan among them.
“Ang problema talaga ay kahit na meron nang CADT, hindi pa rin nai-implement and ADSDPP (Although we already have the CADT, the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan has not yet been implemented),” he said.
But even though ADSPP implementation is pending, he tribe, he said, is very strict in letting any entity, especially those with financial interests, enter their ancestral domain.
“Naglihok ang mga tribo na walay makasulod kung walay FPIC (No entity can enter without a free prior and informed consent from the tribe),” he said.
Bae Imelda Signapan, IPMR for the B’laans in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur has been in office since November 16, 2011. She was the first IPMR in the province, she said, adding that she was made to feel welcome by the local government when she took her oath as a legislator.
She sees her role as ensuring that tribal concerns are attended to, that the children of the tribes benefit from the free education programs from elementary to high school, and that the stand against mining by the tribe is respected and heeded.
“Anti-mining talaga kami kasi most of the tribal communities earn a living from the forests. Dili gyud namo na pasudlon (We will never allow mining),” she said.
While most of them are now Christianized, except for some old folks who still practice the old beliefs systems, they get to celebrate their culture every third week of September in their Kialignon Festival.
Unlike the other datus and baes, Datu Rican Calig-onan was once a regular council member, being the number one councilor of Caraga town in Davao Oriental for one term, from 2007-2010. In 2010, however, the intended running mate of his party’s mayoral candidate dropped out of the race and he was made to run for vice mayor. He lost.
He does not regret that since he is once again a councilor, but this time as IPMR.
He values most the lessons on leadership during the workshop. The parliamentary procedures practice was also very helpful, he said.
But most important, he said, they all learned how far they can go as legislators, and know the limits of legislative work.
Among those interviewed, Datu Rudy Onlos, a Mansaka from Tagum City in Davao del Norte, has a distinct dilemma. He already has the certificate of affirmation from the NCIP naming him as the IPMR for the Tagum City Council, but he has not been welcomed into the council yet.
He was told that there is no budget for his office.
Apparently, there are indeed still kinks that have o be ironed out in terms of making sure that the voices of the lumads are properly represented, heard and acted on.
All these lessons, Mendoza said, are basics that every IPMR should be inculcated with in order for them to truly fit into the mainstream governance without giving up their identities and concerns about their communities.
“While we are strengthening the Bangsa Moro to prepare them for the new Bangsamoro Entity and the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro,” she said, “since tri-people ang Mindanao, we need to strengthen the lumads as well. To capacitate all sides so that more and more will better understand what good governance is really all about.”
The challenge now is how to scale up the gains from this workshop and spread the word throughout Mindanao.