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Is the Enrichment of the Rich, the dispossession of the poor Indigenous Peoples? NCIP, WHERE ARE YOU?

Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera

In a series of meetings attended by non-government organizations, environment activists, ecological movements, human rights advocates, lawyers, bishops, priests, media and chieftains of the Indigenous Peoples from different regions of Mindanao, a DECLARATION signed by thousands of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao has put in clear categorical term to stop treating the 17 million Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines as “disposable wastes.” “KAMI PO AY TAO, HINDI BASURA!” May I share such DECLARATION: Let this DECLARATION reverberate through-out the land. How can you liberate the poor and the oppressed IPs from the quagmire of poverty and oppression?

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DECLARATION VEHEMENTLY CONDEMNING THE INACTION AND GROSS NEGLIGENCE OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (NCIP) IN PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AS EMBODIED IN THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS ACT (IPRA LAW)

“WE THE CHIEFTAINS OF THE DIFFERENT TRIBES OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN MINDANAO ESPECIALLY IN BUKIDNON HAVE COME TOGETHER WITH A FIRM COLLECTIVE INTENT TO STRONGLY AND VEHEMENTLY CONDEMN THE GLARING INACTION AND GROSS NEGLIGENCE OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (NCIP) IN PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.

“Upon hearing our narratives during his visit and interaction with us, no less than one of the authors of IPRA Law, former Cong. Omar Fajardo, aptly said that the IPRA Law has been mocked no end. The mockery of the IPRA Law has concretely manifested that the office created to enforce the law is inutile as the massive oppression of the Indigenous Peoples goes on without let-up!

No less than an amazing TV broadcaster, Mr. Ceasar Soriano of PTV 4 had shown in three episodes in his weekly program, “MAGANDANG GABI PILIPINAS” how oppressed the Indigenous Peoples are which carried the theme: AGAW LUPA, AGAW TUBIG, AGAW BUHAY!” Indeed, since 2016, a total of 101 individuals especially IP leaders have fallen victims to extra judicial killings with around 169 victims of frustrated EJKs, 227 IPs have been illegally arrested, detained and abducted and 27 reported being subjected to torture. For what? For resisting the continuing illegal land grabbing of our ancestral domains. Of those killed included a 5-yr. old boy and a pregnant woman AT ANG PATAY NA, KINATAY PA. Instilling fear is a means of illegal land grabbing.

“As shown in MAGANDANG GABI PILIPINAS, let us revisit some of these painful narratives. In San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon, the Manobo Tribe headed by a lady Datu named Bae Merlita Mayantao stood up to defend their 5,000-ha. ancestral domain which was fenced into a ranch by a powerful corporation. When the tribe protested in 2016, barrage of bullets rained upon them and three members of her tribe then and there were killed including her son, and three wounded. Until now, no justice has been done and they are seeing the killers walking around who are members of a well-known Security Group. But such is just a “tip of the iceberg” (one-tenth seen, nine-tenth unseen).

“Along the 4-lane hi-way in Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon, more than one thousand families of the Manobo-Pulangiyon Tribe are living under shattered tents for more than five years now eating only “kamote” once a day. Why? Because they were ousted from their 1,111 ha.-ancestral domain by a powerful multi- million pineapple plantation company, the Kiantig Development Corporation, owned and managed by the incumbent Mayor of Quezon, Bukidnon, Pablo Lorenzo. Recently, after five long years of advocacy and legal struggle, the long- awaited Certificate of Recognition has been issued by the National Commission of the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), signed by no less than the NCIP Chairman, Sec.

Allen Capuyan and six NCIP Administrators which recognizes the ownership of the Tribe of their 1,111 ha. ancestral domain. With that concrete and categorical certification, can the tribe now enter their ancestral domain? No! When the Chieftains together with the NCIP lawyer served the notice to the corporation printed in a tarpaulin, the notice has been torn-off into shreds by the armed men of the corporation. Six months had passed since such issuance and such Certification remained inutile. The tribe has been asking the NCIP regional office headed by Dir. Ann Burgos for the issuance of a Cease and Desist Order but no issuance has been done. Ganyan po ka inutile and NCIP! “In Talakag, the Higaonon-Manobo- Talaandig Tribe has narrated how their 39,000 ha. ancestral domain is being land- grabbed in cohort with local officials and agencies of government and when they would resist, they would be tagged as NPAs.

In fact, a chieftain had been tied-up whole evening in a nearby military camp for being tagged as an NPA by a barangay captain who is so interested to grab his land. But the violation of our human rights is not just on grabbing our ancestral domain. It also included the grabbing of our water rights as in the case of the Higaonon Tribe in Mirayon led by Datu Ben Anoos. The never-ending flow of water in the tribe’s ancestral domain has been converted into a water-system by the LGU that since 2005 has been supplying the water needs of thousands of families in Talakag, Bukidnon but not a single centavo has been paid to the Tribe, a clear violation of IPRA Law. After spending so much fighting for justice, after all their advocacy, nothing happened because of the powerful LGU. NCIP has been well informed of this violation of our water rights, yet, nothing has been done by this office. In San Fernando, Bukidnon, Bae Leah had fought against the violation of her tribe’s water rights but was shot to death in 2019. Again, where is NCIP?

“What is so horrible is the ejection of some one hundred families of the Talaandig Tribal Community from their more or less 73-ha. ancestral domain at Sitio Gabunan, Barangay Lapok, Talakag about two years ago. They are now living in extreme poverty and hunger as they have been ousted from their ancestral domain by a powerful alleged “buyer” a certain Mr. Jerry Martin Tamsi who together with the Policemen forcibly drove the IP families in sometime in the latter part of 2021out from their land using backhoes to dismantle their homes and destroyed their crops. When they stood-up for their rights, no less than their chieftain, Datu Junard Enecito known as Datu Ladlaran, has been declared “persona-non-grata” signed by no less than the LGU officials headed by the Mayor Vergito O. Factura himself. In that declaration, even the “seven tribes of Bukidnon,” have been declared “persona-non grata.” Has the NCIP been informed of such “Persona-Non-Grata” declaration? If so, has it given its consent? We believe that no less than the NCIP has the knowledge on the legitimacy of the 7- tribes of Bukidnon led by no less than Datu Migketay Vic Saway who before was the IP representative to the United Nations.

“ Now we ask, why use force to oust the poor IP families? If in fact, the 73 hectares have been a subject of the buy and sell transaction which is against the IPRA law as ancestral domain cannot just be a subject of “buy and sell” dealing. Is there any order of eviction? Can the buyer show any title issued in his name? None. In fact, the IPs ownership is well guaranteed by a Certificate of Land Title as the area is part of the CADT issued to Milalitra. Question: How come the military and the Police sided with the buyer using force to evict them without following due process of law? It was the force of “money” and influence by a powerful buyer whom we heard did buy the land for two million pesos, ousting the IPs without any title! NCIP, where are you?

“All told, NCIP, please be informed that glaringly, indigenous lands have become battlegrounds of conflict against powerful forces that aim to grab our lands
and resources to advance political and economic interest in support of agenda that is driven by corporate greed. Dispossession and displacement of IP communities from our ancestral lands continue unabated despite the recognition of IP rights by the IPRA Law as well as International Human Rights Laws. Ah, we believe that truism is very glaring.

Why has NCIP allowed these painful realities to continue all these years? Apparently, thousands of hectares of the IPs’ ancestral domain are now being transformed into massive plantations through corporate globalization in cohort with powers-that-be.

“Please be informed that the Indigenous Peoples are not disposable wastes. KAMI PO AY TAO AT HINDI BASURA. Indeed, all these years, we have been treated as disposable waste. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We are human beings with dignity made in the image and likeness of MAGBABAYA. WE WILL STAND FOR OUR RIGHTS TO MAKE LIFE BETTER ESPCIALLY TO OUR CHILDREN NO MATTER WHAT. Indeed, there is no greater love there is than those of our brethren who have willingly given up their lives to protect our human rights and maintain our dignity!

“NCIP, please be informed that the violations of our human rights are continuing without let-up, manifesting the painful truism that the enrichment of the rich by acquiring our lands means our own dispossession. Land, water, forests and natural resources called commons are our economic assets which for thousands of years we have been using in the spirit of sharing and service to one another as the IP culture has given high adherence to the sacredness of nature. Now that the IP rights are being violated which are well protected by the IPRA which created NCIP to be our vanguard, you have miserably failed to do your mandate as the IPs now are the poorest and the most oppressed. Out ancestral domain has been converted into massive plantations to serve the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries while we cannot even have enough staples, i.e. rice and milk, for our people. We are now forging our unity and with all the ecological movemento oppose the destruction of the vital commons which are essential to our survival. Without water, fertile land and crops genetic diversity aptly known as “commons,” economic development for us will become impossible. There is now the continuing exclusion of these commons at the expense of the Indigenous Peoples who are now living in extreme poverty and are now the most oppressed!

“We have now collectively come together to harness our collective power as one Indigenous Peoples to fight for our rights. Because you NCIP HAS NOT DONE YOUR MANDATE, YOU BETTER BE CLOSED! THAT IS NOW OUR ADVOCACY. The time has come to rectify a glaring SOCIAL WRONG – NCIP IS AN INUTILE OFFICE THAT HAS CONNIVED WITH THE RICH AND POWERFUL TO PRIVATIZE THE COMMONS! WE WILL NOT STOP TO RECTIFY SOCIAL WRONGS TO LIBERATE OUR PEOPLE FROM MASSIVE OPPRESSION AND BY OUR STRONG ADVOCACY TO CLOSE DOWN AN OFFICE THAT IS SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES YET HAS REMAINED INUTILE AT SO MUCH EXPENSE TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE! WE ARE THEREFORE VEHEMENTLY CONDEMNING SUCH GROSS NEGLIGENCE AND ARE CALLING FOR A REVIEW OF THE IPRA LAW! We now call on all the 17 million Indigenous Peoples in the country to fight for what is right, what is true and what is just to liberate the Indigenous Peoples from the quagmire of poverty and massive oppressive!

“FOR THIS NOBLE CAUSE, WE ARE SERVING NOTICE TO ONE AND ALL THAT WE HAVE AWAKENED AND WILL NOT ALLOW ANYMORE THIS GREAT SOCIAL INJUSTICE TO CONTINUE. INDEED, LET JUSTICE BE DONE TILL HEAVEN FALL. WITH OUR FIRM COMMITMENT, WE ATTACH OUR SIGNATURES.” The Declaration was signed by thousands of Ips throughout Mindanao.

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